Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Arc of 2013: The Beginnings of The Pushback

Up is down and down is up.

I messed with this photo. It was fun.

About Those Lists

The year’s headed to a close. The lists have been coming out for a while now, already:

Here’s The Best _________ of the Year.

Here’s The Top 10 ________ You Missed This Year.

Here are the best movies. The best albums. Books. Pictures.

What did we miss? What didn’t we keep up on? What did we fail to consume? The list of lists goes on.

I’ve being a little harsh, but there’s a reason. Lists are fine. Measurements, subjective judgments, as to what’s “best,” as to what you should make time for in a world apparently low on time and definitely drowning in content — they’re fine too. They have some value. I mean that. I like lists. I think there are too many of them, and I don’t trust the motives behind many of the list-writers and think the listing has gotten a bit out of control in an overly Buzzfed kind of way — but I get it.

Looking back, in itself, is a crucial tool for learning. Looking back and organizing what trails behind us into value-tested lists helps us bring retrospective order and clarity to a year that, like all others, invariably, felt as if it was rushing by while it ran its course from January 1 to December 31. And so, here we are, facing another end, another pile of lists.

I don’t have a list for you. But I did notice something recently, in reflecting back upon this this year, that I believe is worth discussing.

The Shift

This year felt like a shift.

I often talk, both here and in general conversation, about the importance of Story to both art and society. As a writer and filmmaker, I obsesses constantly over Story. It’s the god I serve. However, in obsessing, as it often goes, I sometimes forget to reflect upon where Story comes from. In a word, as has been pointed out frequently and repeatedly over the years by artists more experienced and more accomplished than me (though we all seem to consistently forget it): Story comes from Life. Story, at its best, is a neatly ordered facsimile of something that is felt in the world but which begs further exploration and needs expression before any real sense can be made of it.

I realize that some of what I am about to say may be colored by the experience of my recent personal growth spurt (which has been well-documented in this space over the course of this year). But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started to truly (and finally) mature as a storyteller and person as soon as I started making distinct, observable changes to my life. Neither do I believe it was so simple as deciding, personally, to embrace change on my own.

Before there can be change there must be readiness; before that, acceptance; before that, awareness; before that, willingness; before that, a sense of needing something to be different.

Up until very recently, I wasn’t sure many people, at least in contemporary America, ever got past this sense of need — to look at something that feels wrong, to acknowledge honestly that, for change to occur, we need to eventually explore areas of pain and dissatisfaction. In my mind — and to a degree I think it’s still an unfortunately common occurrence —  when faced with a feeling of wrongness, we almost inevitably (desperately) suppress the impulse to look at that feeling, to begin trying to figure out what’s going on inside us (and outside us). It’s “safer,” in the unspoken opinion of such people, to hold on to simmering pain, than to risk greater burns by exposing ourselves to potentially hard truths.

An Arc of Redemption

I can all say this because I used to be this sort of person — to a significant extent. As I have mentioned more than once over the course of this year, for a while I was saved by my impulse to pursue and tell stories. When that wasn’t enough, almost in spite of myself, I turned to life for answers. And that’s where I found it, more so this year than ever before. Not a formula or a prescription or a list or even an answer — but a common arc.

Thinking back on this year and those few preceding it, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, or entirely due to my own volition, that this was the year I began piecing together an idea of what I definitively have to do and why.

Something is happening out there. Something is happening here, in this country, in this city and beyond. I can feel it, can sense my part in it.

In our hyper-connected, fast-moving world — in a world of lists and ultra-divided attention — it can be easy to forget that everything worthy takes time. Healing takes times. Recovery takes time. Social pains that symptomatically erupt into our world, they, sadly, sometimes, have to inflict their damage before enough attention will be paid to studying their causes. Beyond this, even — studying can take us only so far. The pain must be lived, experienced.

And then it must be discussed, and then something must be done. Invariably, something does get done. I believe that, now. I don’t believe it excuses us from action, that change will come on its own without human interjection, but I believe in the inevitability of our collective drift towards redemptive change.

“In everything that can be called art, there is a quality of redemption.”
— Raymond Chandler

I’ve made no secret of my specific points of anger, in regards to American society in particular, in writing here this past year, or in writing and creating in general for the past many years. At several points, in the past, I was blind with anger. We all know this happens. We all know it’s bad when this happens, not only because it’s no way to live but because in blinding ourselves we miss things. Again, while I’m speaking mostly on personal terms, I know for a fact that I haven’t been, and am not, the only angry person out there. That’s part of the point I’m trying to make here.

In becoming blind, when this happens to us or when we let it happen, one of the most crucial things we consequently lose the ability to see and/or source out are our paths to redemption. For a long time, despite a sincere focus on and hunger for redemption, I could not see any way to it; not while I was angry. Now, I’m working on it. Day by day, I find myself feeling less resentful of past transgressions, and more grateful for the time I (and we) still have to make repairs.

A lot of this gratefulness has to do with the arc I’m seeing. It makes perfect sense that I would have missed this as well when I was still very angry, but still it has surprised me in recent months to discover that I have never been as alone in this “fight” as I have felt.

Something is happening out there. The pain of the last several years, and the resultant anger, is subsiding. People are moving again. In particular, young people are moving. The Millennial Generation, in particular, is moving — and quickly.

The Pushback

We, the young, haven’t forgotten our anger, but some of us seem to finally be using it for fuel. For lack of a better term at the moment, this something that is happening, this arc, seems to me at least to represent some early version of a long overdue pushback.

We’re underemployed, underrepresented, misunderstood and in many ways we are not adequately respected. We’re also not perfect, and perhaps we have struggled to shoulder or adequately embrace our responsibilities on social and personal levels in our early adult years.

I’m not sure that last part is entirely our fault, if it is our fault at all. But, either way, we as a loosely-defined generation have, in my opinion, begun to truly absorb the pain caused by the hubris and naivete of those few generations that immediately precede us. We’ve grown up fast, even if we have grown up late.

This is happening out of necessity. Someone has to fix this mess. If older generations want to help us — good. We can definitely learn from them. We can definitely stand to integrate some of the lessons and the time-tested values of the past. But preceding generations can learn from us, too. They’d do well to acknowledge this before it’s too late. We’re not keen on waiting.

The arc of 2013 seems like the beginning of the rise of a new power. This power is by no means mature, organized or specific. But it is accelerated by technology, its heart finds its locus from a mostly just place (if still a place that remains somewhat naive), and it’s growth is inevitable.

I don’t pretend to know where this power is going to take us in 2014 and beyond. I don’t know who its real leaders will be (if any ever emerge) or how well it’s going to handle the increasing influence it is inheriting and, increasingly, earning. I don’t even know how or if it will succeed in hastening or forcing some of the change that desperately needs to happen in this country and this world.

But I’m excited to find out. I’m excited to do my part. I’m still angry but I think I know how to deal with it now, how to channel it.

I’m excited, and ready, to push back. So are many others. Are you?

Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year. Let’s make this one count.

UPDATED: Casting Sketch Video (THANKS!)

EDIT: Thanks to everyone who helped us spread the word about this casting call. We got everything figured out and the shoot went great!

Please feel free to share this casting notice

Hey! I wrote a sketch that I’m producing with The Motel Staff and Rebecca De Ornelas. We’re looking to cast a few roles for a shoot happening TOMORROW.

Would love referrals (or submissions) for any of the below characters. No-budget, so credit and copy only, but scene(s) shouldn’t take too much time and the shoots are fun and collaborative. Contact me through this site and/or feel free to send people my way if you think they might be interested.

Actors/comedians with clips strongly encouraged to submit!


Shoot Date: 12/15/2013
Location: Queens or Brooklyn

MIGUEL | Male | Hispanic | Age: 20 – 35 | Role Type: U5 – Updated: 12/11/2013
Miguel is standing outside of the coffee shop, he encounters Glen, the leading male on his way out. He puts Glen in his place. Great comedic timing is a must.

YOUNG WOMAN | African-American | Age: 18 – 30
Seeking female to portray one half of a couple that passes Glen who is trying out a new coffee shop. Will have a line in close up.

Wandering and Deliberation: The Importance of Nothingness

Photo of Birds in Park

I took this a few weeks ago, while wandering in Brooklyn.

My “ideal” state is that of The Wanderer. I don’t know that it makes me much different from most other artists — or writers in particular. But, on many occasions, if I had my way, I would say that I’d like to do little else than wander about New York City with no particular agenda.

Of course, constraints of time and money and responsibility and attachment — make true wandering difficult. Also, wandering too much is almost certainly unhealthy in the long term. This is why being The Wanderer, in the long run, or permanently, is not actually an ideal. Over time, anomie invariably creeps in; the romance of the idea evaporates over time, trails off into the changing, moving air.

On top of this, in terms of the present discussion, I only set up half my point in admitting my wanderlust. Because, when I do take time to walk out into the city with no agenda, I invariably find just as much pleasure in settling down, somewhere, to eat a meal, or drink a cup of coffee, or to people-watch. At this point, the wandering ceases and I’m (usually) able to melt into the fogscape of an least temporarily directionless mind. This sort of break from Time and Place can be peaceful — because it is an embracing of the fact of life’s inevitable march, not an avoidance of it. This sort of break engenders a sort of rare, quiet deliberation. It offers rest to the overworked, active mind.

I grow increasingly distrustful of my active mind, lately. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I recently realized that, a year or so ago, I had stopped remembering my dreams. That hasn’t been the case for a few months now. My subconscious has apparently decided it’s safe, for the time being, to rejoin the interplay of day-to-day life. This mostly pleases me, even if it sometimes leaves my active mind with a lot of work to do, in terms of unraveling the results of whatever it is that’s been going on in my head while I sleep.

I’ve come to cherish the insights my dreams provide. I’ve had to lean on them. It isn’t easy for me to be with myself, currently, when I’m awake. I’ll admit it. It’s an ironic twist, considering where I’ve gone lately in progressing as a person.

As has probably been made obvious over the past year, one result of the work I’ve been doing both professionally and personally has been the discovery of “new,” tenderer layers of myself that just aren’t resilient to the winds of the outside world quite yet. Just as I’m getting comfortable with not being alone, as a result of making Multiverse, and by keeping up with this site, I find it necessary to force myself to incrementally reengage with solitude anyway.

I know the only way for these new layers to become resilient is through exposure. If I have learned anything in recent months, it’s that lesson. Another lesson, though, that I’m taking some time to truly absorb, is that this process must happen on its own. It cannot be controlled. Only guided — compassionately.

In the past, wandering performed two functions for me. As I have alluded, it was a slower, safer form of running away from life. It allowed me to pretend I was unattached to Time and Place, which was never true — especially in my case. I rarely wandered anywhere for longer than a day, or very far. Usually, I would disappear only for a morning or an afternoon. At the same time, I think I wandered symptomatically. In this way, my walks were arguably healthy — an emotional reset at a time of high anxiety or incredible sadness.

Now, I feel compelled to incrementally resume the incremental wandering for a different reason — for the exposure. I feel that, when I wander now (as it also happened in the past, to an extent), I invariably end up replicating something like the subconscious patterning that happens when I dream — but while in a conscious state. Because my active mind isn’t tasked, it can go where it pleases, or needs to go. Because it isn’t completely at rest, I can more easily trace and recall the resultant paths it takes. This fosters learning.

It can be so easy to lose ourselves with all the somethings we need to do or obtain. It can be maddening, to always have to be somewhere, in pursuit of someone for some reason. Tasks and tactile goals and wants and needs — they all have value. But nothingness, I would argue, has an important role in life as well. Nothingness is not only the terrifying symbol of the mystery of death. It is not only The Void. Nothingness can strip away distraction and falsehood, can expose hollowness. In this way, it is capable of infusing the experience of living with virtue, virtue that comes directly from the self.

Value and virtue are subtly different things, and I wonder often about the space between them that defines their difference. I lately feel compelled to explore that space more fully.