So, I’ve been freelancing halftime for a company, doing writing and other stuff, and just got my taxes back. I didn’t think much of it earlier, as I had done contract work before, but this is the first time I have been primarily contract on my own and not through an agency.
The difference is the agency pays you via a W-2, you can opt into health insurance, etc., so it’s basically like full-time employment, only the company you work for and go to every day isn’t the place that actually pays you.
Anyway, this means that after removing all of my legitimate deductions, I am still paying a LOT of taxes.
And the immediate go-tos are normal reactions, but all wrong.
The immediate reactions are that I’d be better off with a full-time job already. Health care is taken care of, you can build up the retirement funds, all of the normal stuff.
Now, I don’t know that full-time work would even be easy to find in NYC. Maybe it is, maybe not. I honestly never looked. I like the stuff I’m doing now, and the company I’m working for, and while I wouldn’t rule out working full-time for them, I think full-time employment with a commute and pants is probably best avoided.
The other option is to take on more work. Obviously, if you make more, paying taxes is easier, since you have a bigger stack of money. Again, true in theory, but still doesn’t feel right.
Now, to be fair, this year has been chaotic. I’ve told people this, and they listen, but no one seems to accept that moving is weirdly emotional, and the amount of time it takes to get settled was significant.
So, the notion of tracking income, setting aside tax money in advance, and stuff like that wasn’t really on the menu. I’d say it wasn’t until maybe November or December when NYC started feeling normal, that I was home, that I started cooking at home more (still not enough), and unwinding.
That feeling also got in the way of working on Haterobics and other things, and that really needs to be my focus. Obviously, self-publishing a book on Amazon has no assurances of revenue. But having it live as a file on my desktop certainly won’t. I’m also supposed to be writing two or three shorter memoiresque things this year, too.
That is the stuff that holds the potential, albeit unlikely, of getting me off the grid of billing hourly and worrying about income. It is also the best use of my schedule and free time.
So, that needs to become the focus.
Writing marketing copy for more and more people is never going to pave a path to anything but writing more marketing copy. And I certainly know enough people who are looking for work, and wish they could find jobs, but again, I need to keep reminding myself my work is what pays me and keeps me afloat to create. I’m fortunate that I only work for people I know, and it has led to stable income and good experiences, but I’ve never been able to break the habit of centering life on work and fitting in my creative stuff on the side, as opposed to the other way around.
And although that sounds unrealistic, all of the clients I do write for typically have no idea or concern for when I work, just that their work gets done. So, it’s as flexible a framework as can possibly exist, and it is time to start benefitting from it.
To be fair, if you sell books on Amazon, it is yet another 1099. But still the right way to go about things.
Successful writers never plan to write, they just do it. Stephen King famously said in interviews he writes on every day except Christmas and his birthday, while indicating that just sounded good in interviews, and that he also write on those two days.
I think I am going to try the Seinfeld Productivity Method again (hell, there’s even an app for it now!), which is also known as “Don’t Break the Chain!” All you do is some activity every day, and put an X on a calendar, and once you have a chain of Xs that keeps extending and extending, you will hate to not put an X on that day and break the chain. It’s stupid, but if it works, that’s fine.
Planning to be productive, exercising, dating and everything else in the future is nothing new for me, and we can see how successful it’s been.
And, the upside is, I’ve been working longer days in March, but that ends in April, so the amount of time I’m at the computer doesn’t have to change. Just needs to switch to working on the novel.
So, I think I will start reading the last draft of the novel this week, and by the time I finish, I will have less work to do each day, and it should all balance out.
Honestly, starting is the real issue. Once it gets going, it isn’t really something you have to think about, or force yourself to do.
It’s just a matter of getting there.
It is interesting how any minor thing has you retreating to the familiar, though. How the 401Ks and the taxes, and that whole life you’re supposed to be building up is held out as the path we’re all supposed to be on. And, who knows, maybe it is the path most traveled for a reason.
But I’ve sort of done too much work distancing myself from it to turn back now. I really need to publish and fail, not fail to publish, since at least that would at least be satisfying.
I do owe a friend a book review for Oasis, and I’ll start reading that tomorrow, but it is a YA book, so it won’t take all week. After that, I will immediately go into Haterobics and read that critically for as many days as it takes.
And then, once that starts, the wheels are in motion.
Every time I’ve gone back after a lot of time off to re-read Haterobics, I’ve enjoyed it, fell back in love with the book, and had an amazing time improving it.
This time is actually the first time I don’t have any hesitation that will happen again, so I think I’m ready.
I still wish I didn’t have to pay so much in taxes, though.
As most of you know, I run Oasis, which is a site for LGBT youth that I started in 1995.
One of the odd dynamics is that I am the moderator, and the community is a constantly cycling audience of people in their mid-to-late teens.
So, for 17 years, I have been having the same conversation with people of the same age about the same part of life about something that stays pretty constant.
How can I tell if my friend is gay?
How do I tell people about me?
How do I tell my crush I love her?
And it’s interesting because it is kind of boring and the same to me, since this is the 237th time this issue has come up in 17 years, but for this person it is the hugest drama they have ever experienced in their life, and they are freaking out, confused, need support, etc.
But the weird part is it’s all a bit misleading.
Dan Savage covers this a lot, but basically the prerequisite for being an advice giver is that someone asks you for advice. That’s really the only qualification, and I happen to run a site where people ask for help.
But there are two issues with this dynamic.
The first is that I came out when I was 23, and was delusional to the point where closeted doesn’t even seem applicable. It’s sort of like I meandered around for a long time, then it all became clear when I was 23, and I immediately came out.
So, my background is unlike everyone who comes to the site, since I am older then all of them, from a different generation as all of them, never was closeted in high school, never hid my sexuality (I came out as soon as I had one), never came out to high school classmates (while we were in high school), never had sex in my teens, and on and on.
That was always kind of the point with Oasis. It was meant to be the site I could have used when I was younger (which brings up time-space continuum issues, since I couldn’t have used a website when I was younger, but you get the idea).
Either way, considering all of this, running Oasis is a very strange role I’ve taken on then, no?
My experience isn’t based on my life, though, it is a weird iterative knowledge gained from living in this same infinite loop for so long. So, I feel qualified to answer, but at the same time, nothing is based in my experience, with rare exception.
So, this fits the audience metaphor since I have found a way to stay in the middle again, a way to interact with people and be outside the experience. I didn’t live this, I won’t live this, yet people who are in the thralls of it surround me, and I help them.
I do get satisfaction from doing it, but it still has that stank to it, where I’m not building on my own experience. But, instead, I have been the ultimate audience member, as I’ve watched hundreds of people live this moment. I’ve seen things go well, crash and burn, and every option in between. But none of it is from my personal experience.
The second issue with the Oasis dynamic is that, once they sort things out, they jump past me.
So, I kind of found a perfect spot for myself, in that the majority of my audience stays on the site when they are going from point A to point B, and I can help them with A pretty well, but B, when things become dating, relationships, and all of that? Here, I’m making things up again…
I’ll cover my dating stuff in a separate essay, but the people on Oasis sort of jump right from sorting out their identity to applying that identity and wanting to date, socialize, find love, etc. You know, all the normal stuff.
Now, here the barrier I’ve put up is more body image rather than intimacy/sexuality, but it doesn’t make my lack of experience any more appropriate.
So, for years now, I’d get e-mails, phone calls, and such, with people thanking me for putting them on the right path, helping them find their identity, and now they are dating, in a relationship, etc., etc.
And it’s strange being the conduit to get people from where I never was to where I can’t seem to go.
What weird alchemy has enabled that to happen?
How can I teach people the lessons I don’t seem to be able to grasp myself?
Or, as the filmmaker Mark says in RENT: Why am I the witness? And if I capture it on film, will it mean that it’s the end and I’m alone?
This is actually a theme in Haterobics, although I think it’s one of those insights you’re supposed to have after you publish something? Like, if you write a book in a normal timeframe, you don’t have time to process the hidden backstories and such until after they are published.
But if you take forever to finish, all of that stuff reveals itself eventually, and I’m not sure if that knowledge helps you sharpen the book or dull its impact. I may never know that.
I just need to start living my life from the inside out, and not outside in.
Sound my barbaric yawp, and all of that good stuff.
The audience may be listening, but will the message get through?
When Jonathan Franzen broke out big with The Corrections, I went to his event, and as he was about to sign my book, I told him I was close to finishing up my first novel. He eyed me up, and said, “Well, in that case, let me be the first to wish you…”
And as his hands personalized, inscribed, and signed the book, he said “Congratulations!”
So, my inscription on The Corrections simply reads “Congratulations!” And it seems like an unearned lie, to the point where I have never read the book.
I want and plan to, though. As soon as I finish my novel, the next book I read will be The Corrections, and despite the number of years that ink has sat dried on that page, I will still consider that the first time I’ve honored that moment.
The exceptions are gay authors and Chuck Palahniuk, since I was playing the role of reviewer/interviewer in those cases, and since I did review and/or interview Chuck, E. Lynn Harris, and others, those seemed legit. Only the ones where I tried to be a future peer annoy me.
A similar pattern has emerged with entertainment in general, as I see an inordinate amount of plays, musicals, cabaret, stand-up comedy, concerts, and pretty much everything else in between.
Compared to most people, I, well… there’s really no adequate metric. I meet people all the time who want to attend their first Broadway show someday, whereas I might see a few a month.
I have consumed more of everything than most people ever will. When people ask me to recommend a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas, I run down the strengths of each one, and ask what kind of stuff they are most interested in. I’ve seen them all, except Criss Angel, since I also see reviews.
I probably watched 7 movies this week, two or three stand-up comedy specials, finished the hardcover non-fiction book I was reading, am halfway through the audio non-fiction book I listen to, and am starting a new fiction book to review next week.
This is either impressive or sad, and you don’t even have to choose one or the other, really.
But the common denominator is that I watch. I am always the watcher, never the do-er. I sit in the audience at plays, but I am never onstage. I love going to comedy clubs, but haven’t gone back onstage since my comedy class ended.
I am always up for seeing something, doing something, experiencing everything, but that old journalism conundrum haunts me.
I am not doing enough. My life is still about other people doing things.
It is not writing to be reading. It is not improving my stand-up comedy to watch stand-up comedy. This isn’t research, it’s avoidance.
It’s like I’m trapped in a pattern where I’m moving toward a goal, only there is no deadline, and the goal stays on the horizon as I pretend to move toward it.
And there is something guilty about having a lot of acquaintances in NYC who are actors and dancers. They are constantly training and auditioning and improving and studying, and they are developing an instrument they hope they get to use.
What do I have to do to work on my novel? Launch Microsoft Word. That’s pretty much it.
There are obvious differences beyond that, but I can start, work on, and complete a project without anyone else involved. But I don’t.
Instead, I watch, gather information, or whatever else as an audience member.
It is just a subtle shift to be onstage, though. Many of the people in my stand-up comedy class have continued to perform, and start learning the ropes of doing shows and making inroads.
Obviously, these essays are a way for me to get in a habit of producing content, in a way that won’t interfere with other projects, since me yammering about stuff from my life isn’t really going to affect my ability to edit.
But the trick is to accept that people onstage are always working to be onstage.
I often tell my actor friends in NYC what I thought of new Broadway shows, since they haven’t gone to any lately. They are auditioning, and doing readings, and in classes, and basically doing everything they can so they are queued up to get onstage again soon.
And that’s really the difference. You don’t learn about being an actor from watching shows.
You don’t learn how to be a writer from reading books (you can deconstruct and learn, but you’re not applying it until you write).
I need to make writing the center of my life, and just catch up on shows when they happen, or miss things entirely.
At the end of the day, do I need to attend a concert or finish a chapter?
So, that is the challenge.
Stop rehearsing for a life you’re not living.
Stop preparing for activities you’re not doing.
Stop delaying and just start moving in a new direction.
By deciding to self-publish my novel, there is really no reason I can’t be a published author this year. I have a draft of a novel, a lot of free time, and a desire to work on new projects.
You don’t learn to live a new life by dissecting its contours and challenges in advance.
Move forward and fix things as you go.
There is also something to be said about capturing that crazy energy being more important than a measured discipline.
So, it is time to let the usher seat someone else on the aisle, do fewer things, and fit life in around being creative.
Creativity needs to be like going to the gym. If you plan to do it, you show up. If you hope you have time to do it, you may as well stop pretending you want to go.
I will always love being in the audience, but in between the times I am preparing to be on stage.
Break a leg…
Of course, the literalness of the metaphor kept me focused on writing and performing things. But this audience thing is rather pervasive… consider Oasis and dating.
This is a metaphor I have used a lot throughout my life, and in slightly different contexts.
When I was a newspaper reporter covering murder trials, and working long days doing gavel-to-gavel coverage, it nagged at me that I was spending my life writing about people who have lived. This person may be a horrible scumbag who murdered his wife, but I’m spending my life writing about his life, so somehow he seems to be better off.
I don’t really want to murder anyone, but it did seem like journalism (to a large degree) is writing about other people who do things. Someone else took initiative in their life, in a positive or negative way, and as a result, I can now document their amazing success or their horrible crime. But either way still seemed better than solely being the documenter.
There are a few things that conspired to make me a journalist, and I’m not certain which pushed it over the edge and made it real.
One of these was the tangible nature of journalism. My impulse was to do something creative, and the desire was to study screenwriting at NYU. It was crazy expensive, and potentially unrealistic, but that was the initial push. I think the idea of novels came later, but it is the same thing, really.
So, journalism was sort of realistic. Like, there were people in Wilkes-Barre who were newspaper reporters. Were there novelists in Wilkes-Barre? Who knew?! But it had that sort of blend of writing and blue-collar that would position me two generations out of the coal mines, just not too much further…
The other issue of journalism was social. I do think there is damage to being closeted, and when I was still figuring things out, I went inward. Journalism was a way to connect to things that people were doing, but also not have to do them (the realization that this would be lame and unsatisfying didn’t click for quite some time later).
Plus, if I was writing for the college paper, and needed to go do a “man on the street” thing, you could just go talk to people, take their picture, and you had a social context to sort of do whatever you wanted. It’s probably safe to say my “man on the street” pictures were pretty literal, although I was probably crafty enough to interview some girls, too, just for cover.
I’d wager that any of the guys featured in those pictures is probably someone I found hot at the time. So, there was also that weird element, too.
So, it was that balancing act. I wouldn’t ever run for student council, but I would attend all their meetings and joke with them and be a part of it. Plus, you moved up one level. I wasn’t the guy running the meeting, but I also wasn’t just an attendee. I was part of things. I had a role.
There’s probably a lot of stuff packed into those few paragraphs that I’m not unpacking right now.
This led to me realizing that there was an entire world where a quick knowledge of how to navigate things could open up a lot of doors. I started preferring review tickets to shows rather than paying, interviewing movie stars and singers coming to town, and any other perk I could sort out.
I remember, one time, Dana Carvey had a nice chat with my grandmother as he tried to track me down so I could interview him. It wasn’t scheduled; he just went for it, since he had my phone number. And this was pre-cell phone era.
But the sexuality angle also played a role. The most obvious example was the interviews I did with young actors. I had upgraded from my man on the street days and, now, if I thought an actor was cute, I would set up an interview to promote their show. I don’t think I own many of these clips, and that is probably a blessing of sorts.
I know there were some actors, notably Chris Furrh from the Lord of the Rings movie and Jay R. Ferguson from The Outsiders TV series, who did a lot of scenes half-naked or in underwear, and that would be part of the interview. How I even thought I was closeted at the time is completely ridiculous in hindsight.
But the weird thing is that having access to people younger than me on TV shows and in movies still never broke through to me that you could sort of make life up and see what happened. That wasn’t a lesson that was taught much in Wilkes-Barre.
So, as much as I would write stories about people who just did community theater, happened into an audition, and ended up in a movie or on a TV series, it still seemed like that was a world I wasn’t a member of. I thought it was cool it could happen to them. But, that wasn’t on the radar for me.
I may have mentioned before that I did the same with authors, and took some slack from friends in San Francisco who thought it was strange that I would attend readings by Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King, and on and on, but when someone local who worked at the local independent bookstore was releasing some book I didn’t want to read on a local imprint I’d never heard of, I would have zero interest.
But in some ways, it was a research project. I wasn’t going to revere these famous writers, but to deconstruct them. The more I saw that they were just normal people who sat down, wrote something, and published it, the more I could try and convince myself I could also do the same. And, I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t learn that same lesson from a local author promoting a book few people would ever hear of.
So, I sat in the audience, usually bored, as famous authors would read from their books and then take Q&A from the audience, and I would usually know the answers to everything they were asked, since there was such a frenzy of coverage when they were on a book tour, and everyone asks the same things.
Once again, I found a way to put myself in the middle of things. I didn’t write the book, but I also wasn’t a clueless audience member. I knew the backstories of everything. I knew what other anecdotes they had been saying out on the road, you name it.
And, when I got my book signed, I would mention that I was also finishing my novel (which I don’t think was a lie, since I was dumb enough to believe it was true when I said it?), but it is still the worst thing ever. I didn’t realize it then, but everyone thinks they could be a great writer, and a decent percentage of those people think they are writing a novel, and it’s all lies.
Basically, you’re trying to indicate that you’re a future peer, not like the rest of this rabble behind me who are just here to get a book signed. Of course, since I only ever played my role in that exchange, I had no visibility into what I now assume are dozens or hundreds of people doing the same thing. When I dumped a lot of my signed hardcovers and made the move to nearly entirely e-books, I think part of what made it so easy to get rid of them was knowing the insanity that accompanied most of these exchanges.
One I keep as a reminder, and hope someday to earn its inscription.
One of the weird aspects of having been a court reporter for many years is that you have an understanding of the way the criminal justice system works that most people don’t. When friends are surprised by the voir dire process of jury selection, or anything related to prominent cases, you decide to share the knowledge you have. And, typically, what you find is… they don’t care.
If they are wrong about something, and you correct them, the typical response is to just reframe their lack of knowledge as still containing an unquestionable truth. People like their opinions, and are not big fans of you cutting the legs out from under theirs. I don’t know why I bother.
But with Internet sites trolling the news more and more, the process is getting worse, because you have supposed journalists adding a commentary layer to actual journalists and leading hundreds or thousands of people to bad conclusions, with a link to accompany their beliefs.
This week, I spent some time talking about the Steubenville rape verdict, or rather the Breaking News coverage provided by CNN, which was dissecting weirdly by a site called Raw Story. Here, you have someone shape a news story to fit a specific narrative, and then everyone who wants to share and broaden the reach of that narrative does so, but then adds even more wrong interpretations on top of it.
But we’ll dissect the main article here. Most other posts online just build opinion on top of this false narrative.
The headline alone — “CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists” is a tip off that this isn’t really journalism, but we’ll continue into the beast anyway…
Here’s the breakdown:
CNN’s Candy Crowley began her breaking news report by showing Lipps handing down the sentence and telling CNN reporter Poppy Harlow that she “cannot imagine” how emotional the sentencing must have been.
It is important to understand that only when you watch the video having been primed by Raw Story to interpret the news through such an odd lens that anyone would find this notion strange. Having been to dozens of rape and murder trials, no journalist doesn’t get caught up in the gravity of such a moment, when a sentence is handed down and lives are changed forever. Even when you had no doubt that the defendant was guilty, it never changed the vibe in the room. It always had a palpable and grave weight to it all.
I also covered cases involving younger defendants, and the case in my head was a murder case, and these two young guys were found guilty, and it doesn’t make it a celebration, especially not for a journalist. You witness the sorrow of the defendant’s family, the heartache of the victim and/or the victim’s family, and that huge gravity attached to it all is something you always remember.
So, as a journalist, this reads completely normal, because I’m not interpreting it as CNN feeling bad for the rapists. Criminal courtrooms traffic in sadness and regret. To be in the middle of all these conflicting and sudden emotional releases is hard for people to imagine. The stakes are massive, and loss permeates the proceedings, whether it is life, innocence or whatever else that is involved, loss sits at its center. And there are no winners in criminal court. When defendants are found guilty, the plaintiffs get justice, and possibly closure, but not joy or victory.
Harlow explained that it had been “incredibly difficult” to watch…
I think I already covered the elements that would make watching this difficult.
“…as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”
This is the key passage, since it contains the word “promising” that is the main phrase people latch on to, and is in the headline and the lead sentence.
The problem is that as a journalist, you have to set up the story every time you report it. Candy set up that it was a huge rape case with national attention, leaving Harlow with the details. One tangent, if I may…
It is important to realize that this is breaking news, and later in the segment, Harlow even notes that the defendants had not yet even been removed from the courthouse. When I was covering trials, I’d say defendants were out of the building in less than 15 minutes, so this isn’t a measured, reflective piece, but the reaction of someone who probably left the sentencing, and ran outside to do this stand-up piece for CNN. So, I think it is problematic to pick on specific word choices, since this isn’t the nightly news, and they aren’t reading scripted, packaged copy. They are ad-libbing all of it.
Anyway, with that tangent over, the keyword here isn’t promising. It is “had.”
It takes a lot of hoops to have CNN lamenting these boys shouldn’t have been charged with rape because they were athletes, and could have gotten scholarships, etc.
“Had such promising futures” is setting up the emotional element of the sentencing, but this phrase is who these boys were before the rape. They didn’t have such promising futures, and this damned trial is getting in their way. They had promise, and then they committed this act. The promise ended with the rape, not the sentence. And, honestly, you really have to stretch reality to try and twist this otherwise.
As to “watched as they believed their life fell apart,” again, this isn’t a lament, but reporting what happened. This is the harder part for non-journalists, but it isn’t CNN’s job to tell you what to think (that is apparently Raw Story’s job), only what they observed. So, it is especially troubling that they get dinged on this observational comment.
This is also the hook for the first sentence in the story, which reads:
CNN broke the news on Sunday of a guilty verdict in a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio by lamenting that the “promising” lives of the rapists had been ruined…
Not to be a word nut, but this “promising” is completely out of context, because it is no longer attached to the “had” that sets the promise before the rape. CNN isn’t advocating a slap on the wrist now because they have promising futures, but Raw Story wants you to think that. And, if you do, then every other pull quotes they use will build on the narrative they are orchestrating, while ironically saying CNN is the one with the agenda.
But a lot of this is because people don’t understand verdicts and sentencing.
It may be different in Ohio, and since I covered such things, and also potentially different for a juvenile proceeding. But the sentencing is the hook for the breaking news. It is why CNN broke into coverage to do this segment in the first place.
So, they found out the verdict was guilty, got the maximum sentence, and then the defendants spoke to the victim for the first time, probably ever, as their counsel would have told them not to apologize beforehand, since it implies guilt and could be included in the trial. So, a lot of what people are criticizing CNN for is ridiculous, since they are reporting on the aspect of the trial that just happened, the “breaking news.”
Which leads us to…
“One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed,” the CNN reporter recalled, adding that the convicted rapist told his attorney that “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.”
At that point, CNN played video of Richmond crying and hugging his lawyer in the courtroom.
“I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement,” Harlow said. “It was very difficult to watch.”
This is part of Raw Story’s proof that CNN is all about how awful things are for these guys, and that they aren’t saying anything about the poor victim. But this is all the stuff that just happened in court moments ago, aka the Breaking News. I’d like to think that we live in a world where you don’t have to take extra time to mention that rape is bad. I think we’re all on the same page there.
So, they broke into coverage to tell everyone what just happened, in a part of the trial that is 100% entirely focused on the defendants, since it is the verdict of their guilt and how long they will be in jail as a result, and a lack of knowledge turns this into CNN ignoring the victim.
Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.”
“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.
This is cited in many online arguments as further proof of them trying to humanize the defendants. Which I also find ironic, because I think it is the JOB of CNN and any journalist to humanize the defendants. If you dehumanize them, this becomes easier to absorb and process, but you are removing the reality from the situation. These are young boys who did an awful, unconscionable thing. If you turn them into soulless animals, you are doing THEM a disservice, not CNN. It is a much harder truth to live with, but these are young people, and in almost no time (to us) and a long time (to them), they will be released back into society. And, with that in mind, I want them to feel as guilty, and awful, and remorseful and as human as possible. You can rehabilitate remorseful humans.
But beyond Candy’s comments, this is an interesting turn in the piece, because we are now switching AWAY from the person who was in the courtroom, and just talking to a legal analyst. So, he is commenting on the lasting effect on them. Again, this entire segment is about the sentencing, which is entirely about the defendants, so this is pretty standard stuff. But if you are primed to think that CNN is pro-rapist then this sounds even worse, except he is speaking in general about what anyone in their situation would face in their future:
“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law.”
“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”
Again, there is nothing there that should be misconstrued as CNN lamenting that this poor victim, or the poor judge, or us as a society have “destroyed” their lives. It is factual. Their lives are destroyed. Period.
Being registered sex offenders is another issue and it will follow them for the rest of their lives. Many online reposters have added that it SHOULD haunt them for the rest of their lives, which only means they are agreeing in both word and spirit with Callan’s exact words. The only difference is they think they are removing the tone/subtext that THEY have added and are then answering him, when in fact, they are saying the same exact thing.
Here is the video, and I really can’t comprehend anything Raw Story said as being true once you look at it properly:
The ironic part of Raw Story, and many people emphasizing that they said nothing about the victim is because we are getting all of our information from that video. Later (again, this is breaking news, not 60 minutes), they broke in again and had this exchange:
CROWLEY: I want to bring Poppy back in—because, Poppy, there’s—you know, the 16-year-old victim, her life, never the same, again. And I understand you have been talking to some of the families involved.
HARLOW: Her life never the same again. Absolutely, Candy. The last thing she wanted to do was sit on that stand and testify. She didn’t want to bring these charges. She said it was up to her parents. But I want to tell our viewers about a statement that her mother just made, just made in the court after the sentencing. Her mother just said that she has pity on the two young boys that did this. She said human compassion is not taught by teachers or coaches. It’s a God-given gift, saying that you displayed a lack of compassion, a lack of moral code, saying that you were your own accuser throughout this for posting about this all over social media. And she said she takes pity on them. As far as her daughter, she said she will persevere, she will get through this.
Strangely enough, despite it being posted for a while now, and in several pieces about this online, this segment about the victim has not found its way onto Raw Story.
And, again, the likelihood here is the breaking news. She went on the air, did a quick segment to get the story out ASAP, and then went to hear the victim’s family speak, and get other news, and then came back and reported that.
This is widely available information, but Raw Story still makes no mention of it.
And CNN is the one shaping things to fit an agenda?!
I recently got a television, which I’d consciously avoided for years. To be fair, I’ve watched television content for all of that time, just on my iMac instead of a TV screen.
There is something about downloading the individual pieces of content you want to watch that prevents you from spiraling into watching reality shows of people fishing, fixing motorcycles or hunting ducks.
But, as more of my work and other projects have become computer-centric, I didn’t feel I was giving my TV content proper attention. Or, rather, I wasn’t allowing myself to peel away from the Web and the constant pulse of things while watching, so now I have a 55″ HDTV mounted on my wall.
Right out of the gate, I didn’t want cable. For the small selection of content I watch regularly, I don’t want hundreds of channels coming in.
There is a dilemma, though, as there is seemingly no way to watch the things I watch legally, without paying 80% more for all of the stuff I don’t care for. I can’t get Lifetime to watch Project Runway without paying money to ESPN, and that doesn’t even factor in the 166 hours of Lifetime per week that isn’t Project Runway that I’m not interested in.
I thought the solution would be iTunes, where you can buy individual shows, but they don’t appear the same time they are broadcast. Instead, you typically have to wait a day or so. For some shows, that would work out fine, but some get a lot of social traction/spoilers and require prompt viewing. Plus, a lot of shows aren’t there at all.
On top of all this, I also watch shows that aren’t airing in the US at all, or yet. Derek, Ricky Gervais’s new series just wrapped up its run in the UK, and it is coming to Netflix in the US in a few months. Other UK shows I watch don’t play here at all, that I’m aware of. Another new show I enjoy is Please Like Me, which is only on in Australia.
Then there are the pay channels, like HBO and Showtime. Like the rest of cable, they provide a fire hydrant of content instead of the small glass you want. Essentially, we want the original programming, which means paying more on top of already paying for cable. And, often, you can’t even get HBO, but 5 HBOs, and that might be bundled with Cinemax, and not one Cinemax but four of them. And, these shows aren’t even available through iTunes separately, ever, during their runs.
Then we get to Netflix, and other similar services. And I’ll admit, I bought into the promise of nirvana, too. When they debuted House of Cards, they were applauded for messing with the system of how TV is delivered, and by dumping an entire 13 episodes online at once, they certainly did something new. But, now that the dust has settled, they aren’t solving the critical issue…
They are yet another hydrant of information, whereby finding the desired needles in this haystack is another lesson in futility. I can find the content I know I want, and I can’t try the content they recommend for me, but it is another problem where a lot of the content they have is similar to other services, and ultimately, they are just a reasonably priced way to get to the Netflix-only content that will eventually be the biggest draw.
I think I was spoiled by Amazon, since its recommendations on its website are slightly purer. Since they sell everything, they never had to limit their recommendations to their current library (as Netflix does). They might not be able to tell you about something new until it was in a commercialized form (DVD boxset, etc.), but they did have a lot of big data to find connections about content.
I’m not certain what the solution is, though. The system isn’t as simple as selling music, because the delivery systems are so intertwined. With music, when a singer had a new CD, everyone was typically selling the same commodity, and it was available everywhere, so it was easy to sort out how to move that to iTunes and charge for it.
The system can’t really improve until one centralized service is tracking all of the available content to begin with. If I watch a show that is similar to Shameless on Showtime, something has to know there is a show called Shameless on Showtime and be able to apply metadata to that show to determine I might like it. But if I’m on Apple TV, and the show isn’t on iTunes yet, or Amazon Prime, or Netflix (streaming only), then the system is still broken, since most recommendations people follow are based on immediate availability.
I’ve just been a bit wonkish about this stuff lately. It is similar to e-publishing, which is another curiosity to me.
Actually, the bigger issue to me is how some traditional methodologies never disappear. Two examples I run into all the time are audiobooks and magazines.
Audiobooks have improved, but there is still a lot of weirdness to them. For example, I’m currently listening to Patti LuPone read her own unabridged memoir, and the Audible content does track where it’s at in the book, and (unlike a few years ago), will show you how much time is left in a given chapter.
But, why don’t they just follow the same model as other audio content in iTunes, and just make every chapter a separate audio file? Depending on the content, I might like to have one chapter remain on my iPhone, rather than keep an entire book synced and have to remember Chapter 6 is what I want to have on-demand.
Magazines are even worse, since they can’t break out of their print trappings. I have a few magazines that I read cover to cover, such as Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. But the online versions still seem to have some publishing DNA left in them, since I’d almost prefer them to feel like a to-do list. Read Matt Taibbi’s latest story, click done and it removes itself from the Table of Contents. If there’s something I think might be valuable, let me store it as a favorite. Make magazine content portable, so that I can interact with each piece.
Some go the other way, and start bringing in all of the web content in addition to the magazine content. And, to be fair, it is usually lower quality and meant to attract web traffic, so that needs to be opt-in.
I’m not entirely sure what these systems would look like, if monetized and delivered properly. And, let’s face it, I’m probably in the minority tracking television content I enjoy across three continents. But is that truly the case?
The old argument for region-restricted content was that Australia would need to license its content to a US provider, and that would open up a new revenue stream for the producers and content creators. Which is fine, but most of the time, that doesn’t happen. If a property is popular in another country, it is more likely purchased and a horrible American remake occurs.
I’m not even sure I could have legally found out that I love neurotic, skinny gay comics had I not found Simon Amstell in the UK and Josh Taylor in Australia. Now it’s my favorite category of gay content.
I am open about this, though, with the content creators. When I purchased a ticket to see Simon Amstell in NYC and spoke with him after the show, I joked that this ticket was the first thing I’ve seen him do without an illegal download, which made him call me a “naughty boy.”
When Ricky Gervais mentioned content that wasn’t available globally, I tweeted to him, but really thinking his followers would mainly see it, that: “Can someone download and repost this for all regions?!”
Ricky immediately replied: “I do not condone this. & I wish I hadn’t retweeted your question ”
Which in Internetspeak means, someone should do this.
This is an area I’m very interested in, as I want to find a way to pay for Shameless day and date, without paying for ESPN. I want to know Josh Thomas exists in Australia, even though he doesn’t perform here and none of his content is licensed here.
I keep hoping someone sorts this out, but unlike music, where the financial bottom dropped out before change occurred, video content isn’t as affected. Yet.
But there still needs to be a way to consolidate and sort all of this stuff effectively and intelligently. Right now, we all pay different people for larger and larger haystacks, containing fewer and fewer needles.
It’s not like I don’t have time to write these essays. It’s just that I noticed patterns I didn’t like, which is that when I wrote more bloggy entries, it was easy and fun, but that I was doing that instead of writing stuff that comes from a deeper, more vulnerable place.
I mean, this whole essay project was delayed forever for the same reason. And, when I started it, especially the first essay, there was a sort of emotional, open wound quality to it all that I found intriguing. That element has decreased over time.
Except the two or three essays I always intend to write lately are way on that side of things. Like, way too far. But instead of writing them and putting them on hold as far as publication, I just make that the barrier.
Another incident lately has me questioning the parameters of my writing, as far as how to bring other family and friends into the mix when appropriate. There’s an essay I wrote a while ago, before starting this, which I have yet to publish, that includes two guys in it. One I wanted to sleep with, the other I did, and when I finished it up, I sent it to both of them, and they both consented to it being published. One with his real name, the other with a fake name.
But there was an incident lately involving family, and once you open that can of worms, it is never easy, because most of the story is backstory for it to make any sense. You can’t just start with, “I met this guy at a bar…” and have it be an insular moment.
With family or close friends, a lot of the action makes sense because of the shared history moreso than what is said. Because, often, if you weren’t related to them, you’d never be in this situation.
So, to get to the moment that recently happened, the moment that is interesting, it is a lot of unpacking to understand all of the players. And how they interact. And their individual and shared histories. You can’t just blurt out the new chunk without context.
I do try to make these essays about me, and only bring other people into the mix when they are needed to tell my story better.
That was also the error when I took my standup comedy class, all of my targets and material was outside of me, which isn’t how I think I’m funniest.
But how do you draw those lines?
I know David Sedaris has had a lot of issues with his family, since he has enshrined them in his essays, and not everyone has appreciated the attention.
Anthony Jeselnik, a comic I like, has created a persona he uses where he says horrible things about his family, but they are all untrue. One of his jokes is that his mother is a Holocaust denier, so they sit down and explain how wrong it was, and make her watch Schindler’s List, and after all of that, she can’t believe it’s only happened once. So, on one hand, he says horrible things about his family, only none of it is true. He said his mother would much rather be known as a Holocaust denier in a joke than have him air actual dirty laundry.
I do think my biggest concern, though, is how much I don’t mind sharing everything.
I’m often concerned about my lack of secrecy moreso than what people will think, including the people I write about.
I’m largely safe writing anything, because I don’t think any immediate family read this stuff. So, on some level, if and when they do find it, it will be a concern for how much is already online.
I’ll give one example of an essay I keep thinking I should write, so that I don’t have to make everything so vague.
My father is an alcoholic. This is not a secret.
Growing up, I kept hearing the same refrain about him. How he’s such a great guy and if he could only stop drinking, he could accomplish anything.
Now, I wouldn’t be interested in writing about my father drinking on its own. But I keep thinking that I had bought into that narrative, too, and how I’ve said the same thing for years about him.
If you look at it, though, I’ve sabotaged my own life with body image issues to a large degree, and if only I could stop doing that, I could accomplish anything.
So, it’s the parallel that intrigues me there. But for that to work as an essay, I have to dig deep into his life and my life to flesh out those parallels. And he hasn’t agreed to want his story told to strangers.
Ultimately, I’m sure I’ll write stuff like that, but it is new ground for me. And I want to make sure I do it in a way that is as fair as possible to everyone. Except, I don’t really have any interest in getting their permission.
I don’t really want their blessing, but at the same time, if things were to go well, they’d learn about things when they were too late. Like, when something was already published, and all of their friends could read it.
So, it is a weird middle ground there, deciding to tell people’s stories against their will, without their permission, but wanting to sort of make sure they know and are OK with it.
To be fair, I think most people who write books and essays like this become somewhat estranged from their family.
And, I really don’t think my point that I’m only bringing them into the mix as little as possible so that I could explore my own story carries much weight. If you don’t want to have your life on display for other people, the intent isn’t a huge deal.
And my family all seem to live long, so I can’t wait everyone out.
So, this is sort of what has been going on here behind the scenes.
There are stories that are solely about me that I’m not entirely sure I want published, although let’s face it, I eventually publish everything I think that way about.
But a lot of my stories have dependencies on other people that I’m still trying to sort out. And, again, the odds of me not telling these stories is also rare.
I may keep some of these essays written and unpublished and perhaps see if they congeal into anything that might be the basis of a future novel or something.
That would be the best of both worlds, since it gives me deniability to some degree, and I also didn’t explicitly call people out directly… and it’s not like I think I would name people, but anyone who knows me would know who most of the people are.
Of course, if the audience I was going for was just the people already in my life, I wouldn’t bother doing this at all.
So, these are the mental hurdles going on behind the scenes. I enjoy writing about Twitter, and old newspaper reporter stories, and such… but I want to make sure I always have a slight uneasy feeling about what is being published here.
Hi again, so… like I had a delightful norovirus, then got behind on work, and a bunch of other blahblah that doesn’t matter. I still intend to publish 365 essays this year, I’ll just have to catch up.
Not sure why this is the first thing that I’m writing about after my hiatus, but I’m completely confused by live tweeting.
I should point out that I have no love of Twitter, and I honestly don’t understand how anyone is meant to digest what flows through their Facebook walls, Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs on a regular basis. Two weeks ago, I reached a pretty major milestone for Twitter, as Ricky Gervais retweeted me.
The lesson I learned was: If Ricky Gervais retweets you, a few people start following you, and your Twitter explodes with people replying to you and Ricky to get his attention.
But the issue at hand that I’ve been trying to sort out is live tweeting.
I just read an Entertainment Weekly cover story on Pretty Little Liars, a show I never saw and don’t think I care about. But they had a lot of detail about how they think the social component of the show, both from the actresses and crew tweeting about making the show, to regularly live tweeting the episodes, is a huge part of its success, as they have increased audience investment in the show.
I also understand that, in terms of TV ratings, it counts a lot more when people watch the actual show in real time. If you TiVo a show, and watch it an hour or so later, it doesn’t have as much impact on the weekly TV ratings. So, while that is stupid, since TiVo does know whether you watch it (and I assume reports it), it seems like that shouldn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it does. I imagine this is because TV ratings determine ad costs, and TiVo people skip the ads.
But, anyway, I think I’ve caveated enough, on to the live tweeting.
Survivor is a show I enjoy, and The Walking Dead is another. Both shows display hashtags you should use to talk about the show, and it isn’t just #Survivor or something basic. Every chunk of the show gets its own specific tag. For example, this link is to #ImmunityChallenge, which was obviously displayed during the immunity challenge.
And, reading it through, it is interesting to see people sharing their real-time thoughts on things as they happen.
The part I can’t wrap my head around is that… to be blunt… I really just want to watch the show.
The reason I broke down this year and bought a TV was to make my computing and my TV viewing separate, since my iMac had been serving dual purposes for quite a while. So, the TV was specifically an escape from computing, and I am pretty good about switching and focusing solely on one or the other.
So, it would go against the whole concept of why I have a television to be tweeting the whole time. But there’s a bigger issue…
I don’t want to tweet with strangers about Survivor or anything else.
Survivor is a visually lush show. They go to exotic locales, film in HD, and tend to have a lot of barely-dressed, attractive people. I also think there is an element missing if you’re just listening to it a lot of the time (and I can’t figure out how anyone thinks they’re not missing anything if they’re tweeting and reading other people’s tweets at the same time. On many occasions, Jeff Probst even live tweets the show.
And I think the weirdness this whole issue conjures up is that I do think the Internet and the bazillion channels and shows everyone watches are creating a very fractured cultural experience.
I mean, sure, there will always be a “Call Me, Maybe” or “Gangham Style” that breaks through and everyone knows about it.
But, even with bands I follow… I noticed when I was in San Francisco, when I would ask people if they wanted to see specific new bands that I loved, no one knew who they were.
We all carve our own path through Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, Rdio and everything else to the point where most people are an audience of one for a lot of their tastes. But I remember growing up very differently.
There are non-singles from Billy Joel’s The Nylon Curtain that I think many of my high school friends knew inside and out. We knew less artists, but what we did know, we knew deeply… and I don’t see a way that time can ever occur again, but there is something to be said for that shared experience.
I have two big upcoming concerts at Madison Square Garden, for MUSE and P!nk, and in both cases, I have created playlists for my iPhone that match the setlists for their recent shows. I know I’m not going to deeply grok their entire catalogs on deadline, but I’ll split the difference by making sure I know 93 percent of the music they’re going to play at the show.
But the disconnect for me is trying to rectify these two worlds.
Because I remember when TV was more of an event, and Seinfeld was on Thursdays, and you’d talk about it at work on Fridays. We didn’t have a water cooler there, but the experience persisted.
Now, if you actually watch a show the day it airs, let alone the time, you either have to live tweet about it and miss a lot of the show, or if you post about it on Facebook, a bunch of west coasters and time shifters start shouting Spoiler Alert!
So, the nostalgia I had for those shared cultural things has yet to find a way to break through technologically.
You can’t share information in real time with the people you actually know on Facebook or whatever, since no one lives in the same place or watches anything on the same schedule, assuming you even watch the same shows. And, on Twitter, it’s an interesting dynamic, but honestly, I don’t care to read play-by-play reactions from anonymous strangers.
I think there is a hunger for that shared experience, those connections. It just hasn’t happened yet.
The other problem is that live tweeting isn’t interesting. It is a skill that most people do not have.
I’ve read live tweets of Apple keynotes, from various sources, as well as friends attending interesting concerts and events, and what you find is that most people are so focused on saying what is happening, the magic of being there is always removed (one could argue that is because you can either be in that moment or be worrying about sharing it online).
It’s always things like “Tim Cook just came out on the stage,” or “Gaga is playing Telephone now.” You always know what is going on, but few people know how to bring an event across in any meaningful way. Plus, I could have guessed Gaga would have played Telephone at her concert, or that Tim Cook would have shown up.
Technically, as an InfoWorld reporter, I used to live-tweet all of the Steve Jobs keynotes, in the sense that I would constantly be writing my story as it happened, because then, as now, the first story posted tends to get all of the links.
So, while Jobs would do demos, and a lot of the Mac press would be in masturbatory glee, I’d be polishing my article. By which I mean, going back over the stuff I wrote live, and try to add context, history, and anything else that fleshed out the news of the day beyond what was said.
I also had analysts and other people I knew nearby, who would then give me their take on things after the keynote ended, which I’d pop into my story and quickly file it.
So, the ability to write a boring, real-time list of things that are happening isn’t new. I just never considered my work to be done at that point.
It just seems like there is a desire for connection, in the most technologically connected generation ever, but there are so many obstacles, it remains elusive.
I know this seems like a soft topic, but I think illuminating the annoying stuff that I find with such regularity in entertainment journalism is probably endemic of a larger issue affecting a lot of journalism. The difference is, since I refuse to get overly involved in the pissing match nuances of Congress, I can’t highlight those. That’s Jon Stewart’s job anyway.
But I do think there is a weird insular vibe that journalism often brings into its reporting, and whether that access is to President Obama or Bradley Cooper, we all suffer when it finds its way into each story, since in both cases we’re propping up a dying system.
OK, enough set-up, let’s offer up an example and see if anyone agrees or cares. I wish I were being over the top when I say these things annoy and set me off, but they really do.
In Entertainment Weekly’s latest issue (full article not online), the cover story by Geoff Boucher is about the new J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek movie, a sequel to his first relaunching of the franchise, which was an enjoyable flick, and I’ve never been a huge Trekker. In the article, they set up why there is a sequel…
“(Abrams’) Star Trek brought believers and non-believers into the megachurch that is the multiplex, taking in $386 million worldwide. A sequel? Yes, please.”
There’s an argument to be made that no one reading the story needs to be convinced as to why there is one, but we’ll leave that go. No, this is basically stroking Abrams’ ego, and pointing out his first Trek did well. The problem I have will be the word “worldwide.”
Later in the story, we need to stroke Abrams’ ego some more, and show how bad the old Trek had fallen before his masterful hand took the reigns, so Boucher trots out the numbers for 2002′s Star Trek: Nemesis, which he says was “the biggest flop in the brand’s big-screen history, with a $60 million production budget (which may have doubled with marketing and other costs) and domestic box office of $43 million. That abject failure led to the consensus that it was time to try something new.” And more Abrams-stroking ensues…
Reading that passage, I was immediately suspicious. First, Hollywood reboots successful franchises and remakes successful movies all the time anyway. And secondly, why all the ink sucking up to Abrams? I mean, he made a good movie that people went to see, just mention that and Boucher isn’t in the story, but instead we get the Nemesis pile-on.
The part that struck me there was that we switched metrics. When we are praising Abrams, then he gets the highest number available: global box office (I’m surprised they didn’t append DVD/Blu-Ray/etc to that total, as well). But it is without context. The missing information is that of the $386 million, that is $258 million domestic, $128 million global, and a $150 million production budget.
So, to compare apples to apples, using the same figures as Star Trek: Nemesis, Abrams’ Star Trek made $258 million domestic, with a $150 million budget, and we’ll assume the $60 million it cost to market Nemesis in 2002 becomes a flat $100 million (which is less than the adjusted dollars between the years), which means the movie made less than $8 million profit?!
Oh, because that brings up another issue, which is that EW is tossing 2009 and 2002 figures around as if they mean the same thing. They don’t. For example, Aladdin, which came out the same year as Star Trek: Nemesis, grossed $217 million at the box office in 1992. In 2013 dollars, that figure would actually be $422 million. So, Nemesis would be in the low $80 million range in today’s box office dollars. If you want to see what the top movies of all time are by adjusted box office gross (which Hollywood never wants to become the standard), check out this page on Box Office Mojo.
And here is the most interesting part of all of this: I don’t care.
I don’t know the opening weekend or box office grosses of the movies I enjoy. I realize the entertainment press needs as many horse races as they can drum up, but I either want to see a movie, or I don’t. I either like a movie, or I don’t. And I hate a lot of huge-grossing movies (Anything Lord of the Rings), and adore things that weren’t able to find an audience, but ended up being something that deeply resonated with me.
So, I don’t want to misdirect you and think that I care that poor Nemesis is being berated, and Abrams is being overpraised, although both are likely true. I just don’t know why I’m meant to care. If I adored Nemesis, I wouldn’t give a lick if it destroyed that film franchise with those actors. I’d still like it.
I just see no reason to trot out these false equivalent numbers. Just say Abrams came back after his strong debut brought people back to the theater, and if we need to contextualize the pre-Abrams period, Nemesis ground the franchise to a halt after barely making a profit.
Because when you show how amazing Abrams’ numbers are, they’re not as impressive, and if you only use the Abrams treatment for Nemesis, you have a movie that costs $60 million that brought in $67 million at the global box office, so it’s better to cut that to domestic and further mention how promotional costs aren’t even in the film budgets.
Instead, why not just tell stories. What good is access to Abrams and the cast of the series if you have to fill space with all this stuff no one outside of Hollywood cares about? Were they stiffs? Is padding to fill space the final entertainment journalism frontier?
I wish I could link to the next article that started me reading entertainment journalism more critically, but I remember it very well.
It was a profile on Bradley Cooper in advance of Silver Linings Playbook’s release, in either Entertainment Weekly or Rolling Stone, both of which have abandoned the prospects of anyone reliably using search to find their actual magazine content separate from their daily churn meant to generate web traffic.
But the story sort of decided to appeal to some rube mentality amongst its readers, and set up the profile by saying he could be making $20 million a picture after the Hangover, but instead he’s abandoned that to make an independent feature for less money.
To up the “what we he thinking?” ante of this dumb setup, the writer of course forgot some small details such as his co-stars being Robert DeNiro and “fresh off The Hunger Games” Jennifer Lawrence. Forget that! He could be making $20. Million. Dollars.
Oh, and no reference high up that the movie was written and directed by David O. Russell, fresh off his Academy Award nominations for The Fighter, which was up for Best Picture and Best Director. Again, information in the article like this might show that he’s hoping to make something of quality.
Hmm, and I hate to pile on, but of his supporting actor nominees for The Fighter, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, actually took home Academy Awards for their roles.
So, just so you understand this… if you put the actual context into the story: Bradley Cooper is making a movie that appeals to him, with respected actors including Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence, helmed by renowned director David O. Russell, whose recent track record is drawing Oscar attention to his cast and projects.
That’s all great stuff. You know what the least interesting part of this is? How much he could have made doing a fictitious “other” movie to solely capitalize on his Hangover fame. Someone wanting to do good work over huge paydays should be praised and encouraged. But, no, that’s asking way too much.
Journalism that speaks down to its readership, props up its profile subjects to maintain access, and play fast and loose with figures is eventually going to be replaced with a new version that assumes people reading are intelligent, want to stay informed, and can sort out how the stuff we read about works behind the scenes.
Sorry, I’ve had a bit of a virus attack that I’ll spare you the details of, since I can’t see how it would have any future benefit. It did knock me out sufficiently, but I’m on the mend… this is the personal sort of virus, not a computer virus, btw.
Today I wanted to sort of wonder about the pace of change. I think I live under a bit of a delusion that change is some slow, perfected thing. That you chip away at behavior, and those chips change your trajectory, and eventually, slowly, like a large boat, you start going in a new direction. But if you try to go too quickly, you’ll capsize the boat, in this odd metaphor.
But then, there is probably what is closer to reality, which is this is just a methodology that empowers thought as though it were action, and good will as though it were progress.
Eventually, you have to admit that it is all learned bullshit that has successfully led you to feel the victory of change without any of the nastiness like actually doing it, upsetting your system, or achieving goals along the way.
It’s sort of like the end of When Harry Met Sally, when Harry (Billy Crystal) tells Sally (Meg Ryan) he loves her, he has a very simple reason for why he is telling her such important news at such an inopportune time (it starts near the 1:10 mark in this clip, and my apologies if I spoiled a 23-year-old movie for anyone).
He tells her: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible…”
This resonates with me. I keep using a bad juggling metaphor when people ask about my projects, and I mention that first I want to get this essay project chugging along… and then start writing a new Kindle Single…. and then when I have both of those up and running, then I can fold in work on the novel.
And it all sounds divinely reasonable, but it is also bullshit.
I mean, while I have been dedicated to this artistic pursuit, how behind am I on this season of Modern Family? Walking Dead? Survivor? etc., etc.?
So, it isn’t that I am incapable of change, but that what I am saying I want to be a foundational element of my life is something that is given attention after all of my distractions, and this is ridiculous. When I make plans with actor friends, and they have a new audition scheduled or book something that conflicts with a plan, they cancel. They are very clear what is their fundamental task, and what is the stuff you do when you aren’t engaged in that task.
Right now, there is only one task that requires my attention, and that is the work I do for money. That must occur every day, for as many hours as I am scheduled or needed. But after that or before it, I need to fit in all these other things.
And all of the other things in NYC? Those need to be my rewards for achieving my goals, not the things that keep me from completing them.
Another thing that I think has been faulty about this project, although there will be time for essays of all stripes, is if you start a series on January 1 by saying “I fucked up,” there is enough in there to explore well into February.
I’ve liked the newspaper tangents and other potential trips down memory lane, but those need to be the exceptions way more than the rule. I mean, those might get more traffic and comments and such, but I think an emotional inventory will better serve me than weird job anecdotes.
Of course, once I start working on the novel, this will become moot, as that will hopefully feed some of the essay work, as purging my personal narrative in advance of the last rewrite of Haterobics is why I’m writing here in the first place anyway.
So, I think tomorrow, after doing my paid work, I will come up with a list of things that must be done every day. And then, that list will dictate whether I can do other things. If I didn’t read that day, or work on my novel, or write an essay, etc., then why am I at tribal council?
Who knows, this essay project may fall victim to the other things. Clearly, if it comes down to writing something publishable, or the novel, this would rank under those. But for now, there is still value. And I hope to write 365 of these. To that end, my norovirus absentee essay will be made up. I often write 3-4 essays in one sitting anyway, so it won’t be too painful to catch up.
The other thing I liked about this project initially, is that when it dealt with more emotional, vulnerable topics, I stayed in that mindset more easily, and I think that is a good place to be when I get back into my novel, so if these essays help keep that door pried open, even better. Of course, once I’m in, I may not need extra help in that regard.
I should reiterate, despite the fact that no one will believe it, that Haterobics isn’t a biography, and that my primary job is to ensure my personal thoughts don’t muddy the characters, but there is still a lot of source material I share with each of the characters. We are troubled by the same things, but not in the same ways.
If you want proof, read the first essay here again. The narrative I’m here to change is someone who didn’t move their life in the direction they wanted, and each of the characters has taken a different approach in that regard compared with me. People get stuck at different places in life, and need to figure out how to push through, but compared with my characters, I’m probably stuck further back than all of them.
I really have no plan to dissect the novel in any meaningful way here, as I think the work needs to stand on its own, or at least needs to exist in the real world before I start debating what it is trying to say.
But today is me trying to get myself unstuck, by reminding myself that plans aren’t action, and that goals aren’t victories.
I do have some legitimate things to complain about right now, that are blocking some of the things I want to do to change, but none has as much power as I’ve given it. And I’m not even talking about the norovirus. That thing was spooky, and when something like that decides to sit you down on your ass, you really don’t have a choice but to comply.
I just need to stop avoiding discussions about my novel, yet at the same time be ready to discuss Season 2 of Smash at a moment’s notice.