Drop The Phone, Drink Tea, Sling Words

Don't f*ck with Dottie.
Don’t fuck with Hildy.

I made a mistake this morning. I used my phone immediately upon waking up.

Sometimes I make this mistake, when I’m tired. Sometimes I make it on purpose, if it’s a Friday, and I don’t have the energy or the desire to fight the urge. And it is an urge, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing about what I did — it drives my brain off in a bad direction, to start the day. When I grab my phone, I’m turning to an artificial source of temporary distraction, when what I really need is to accept the reality of where I am in the moment — whether I like that place or not.

Artificial just doesn’t cut it, most of the time.

I know that my day goes better when I don’t touch my phone for hours, except to start playing some music (new Kaiser Chiefs!) or a podcast (MDWAP is all). I feel better, I avoid the poison of FOMO, and I get a fuck of a lot more done in the morning.

I’m not saying all this to beat myself up. I realized what I was doing this morning, and I stopped. I returned to what’s important — drinking tea and slinging words.

No, I’m sharing my “failure” as a gentle and affirming reminder — I’m better when I move.

A lot of good can come from our ability to connect at any moment. I know this. I spent years making a film about it. But, often, it’s the important work we do in those interstitial moments, between virtual connections, that make life worthwhile.

The irony isn’t lost on me, that I’m sharing this on a blog, and that a plurality of those reading are likely to be on their phones right now. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect upon the idea and try out a reset — less distraction and yearning, more focus and being.

So, on we go.


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

TOMORROW (10/9): Watch The Videoblogs for FREE! Then, Let’s Chat

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Happy Saturday, Monsters and Sprites! I don’t know why ya’ll are mythical, today.

Actually, I do know why.

I have great faith in you. I believe in you. You are magical beings that sustain me over the internet, and in real life. There’s no rule that says magic can’t exist, and pass back and forth between people — even in a world where seemingly everything has become a statistic.

The magic persists.

On that note, I want to make sure anyone who is a general fan or tolerator of my work knows about tomorrow. What’s tomorrow?

Tomorrow brings a Live Group Watch and Commentary Event to you, over the interwebs. We’re set to watch The Videoblogs with a group around the country (maybe the world!), in partnership with Nick Savides at the nsavides podcast, Producer Jenna Edwards (April Showers), Writer/Producer David Paterson (The Great Gilly Hopkins) and more cool people. The event begins at 230PM EST.

The event is free, we’ll be releasing The Videoblogs for free for the day, AND there are over $500 worth of prizes for participating. One of the prizes comes from me. I will read the script of one lucky victim — I mean, winner — and follow that up with a consultation.

Other prizes include a 30 min interview with Nick on his podcast, and a consultation package from Jenna, who seems like a pretty badass producer.

The reason I bring this up in the context of magic is because…well, this is what The Videoblogs is about. Strangers connecting online in the pursuit of something better.

Does that mean that I think watching The Videoblogs will make you better? Maybe!

I wouldn’t have made the film if I didn’t think there was a chance. But, to reiterate, it’s not really about that. It’s about a few sturdy handfuls of us (or more!) getting together, taking a real look at some real issues, and bonding over a mutual desire for greater hope.

I’d love to see you there. If you haven’t yet watched The Videoblogs, and want to participate, it might be most helpful to do that today, if you can. As always, you can rent the film on iTunes.

You can also watch it here, for free. To be honest, it’s a lot more helpful to us when you rent (or buy!) the film. But if you can’t do that right now, or want to sample it first, or live outside the US — go for it.

Have a great weekend, my mythical friends. Trailer!


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Thoughts on Body Heat and Machine Dependency

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Every year, when the fall chill sets in but it’s not yet cold enough for the heat to turn on, we humans in this apartment are swarmed by The Pets. I know they are mostly using us for body heat, but it’s hard not to conflate the reaction with love.

The sharing of body heat is intimate, regardless.

Yesterday, I remarked to my wife that I have come to believe that her love for me increases by about 20% in the fall. She stand, sits closer to me, holds me a little longer when we embrace.

We’re all awakened into a sort of greater, more primal intimacy, when the weather turns — aren’t we? There’s a shift in body language, an uptick, a sharpening of the stride now that the heat of summer has passed. There’s a vitality to it.

In similar fashion, it has occurred to me over time — that I have initiated production of every one of my films in the fall. Every last one of them.

Something thrives in me, at this time of the year. I’m sure it also coincides with how life and business at large tends to pick up, in the months leading up to the holidays and to year-end financial reporting deadlines — but for the sake of beauty let’s stick to a discussion of nature for the moment.

I got a new phone yesterday. The process took two and a half hours. Granted, I switched carriers. Still, it was a long time. Short of actual labor, or watching a movie — I don’t do anything for over two hours straight. Maybe that’s sad, but I think it also might be typical.

With this in mind, at one point during the process, while in conversation with the sales associate and my wife, I only semi-jokingly wondered aloud whether, at this point, we were working for the machines — versus the other way around.

I know I struggle with device-addiction. It’s a real issue, and one exacerbated by big businesses constantly battling for the newest most precious commodity after our labor — as much of our divided attention that they can win, and leverage to their interests.

That’s not entirely a judgement. The battling is necessary, to a point.

But these wars are often bloodless, not in terms of a lack of victimhood (there are certainly victims), but rather the exact primal terms that my dog and cat, and some ancient part of you and me, instinctually turn to and understand.

I worry about this erosion of warmth. This overcrowding of the human by the machine. Science fiction has given us plenty of examples of the singularity apocalypse. They’re big and dramatic, and effective for all their melodrama and loudness.

But the actuality of a loss of humanity is often much less glamorous, slower and more sad. This is what we have to fear, I think. It helps me to remember why I tether myself to my phone — to help keep me productive, moving forward in my vision, and entertained (in moderation) in the meantime.

It also helps to take a moment to allow my animals to crawl over me, despite the fact that the laptop is open and ready. To linger in my wife’s arms as we express love and combat the incremental chill of life — together.

 

11903868_10102022863132862_3363202786901023781_n-1My name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

The Word for World is Earth (Day 7 of 30)

This is part seven of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

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There’s a chill in the air, this morning. Fall approaches.

I like the fall. I like every season, I think, when it first arrives. There’s something about the change of season that seems built into our DNA, into our long, deep relationship with the world.

I wonder what it must feel like, to have the timing of seasons switched or shuffled — to move from one side of the world to another for an extended period of time. Perhaps one gets used to it, when it’s a long-term shift, the quarterly change more ultimately important than any one order of change at any one time.

I was thinking about Earth yesterday.

I’m reading a book — The Word for World is Forest — by the incomparable Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a science fiction novel, taking place in a universe where man has traveled to, has even evolved separately on, planets across the universe. Like any good works of science fiction, however, Le Guin’s books reflect our own world more than its fictional counterpoint(s).

I encountered this one moment in the book, in reading before bed last night, wherein a main character is reflecting upon the legacy and etymology of our planet. Specifically, he notes the shared name, Earth/earth, that we have given to the world based on the stuff of which it is comprised.

While this particular book appears concerned, like some others in the genre, in raising question of ecology and sustainability, Le Guin often has a beautiful knack for distilling her environmentalist and/or her humanist warnings into fine examples not necessarily of direct warning — but of the beauty, that would be lost, if we aren’t careful.

That small detail, that the character in question would be so touched in recollecting the similarities between his home world, and the one on which the story takes place — where he lives as an alien, and where the native word for the lush wooded planet on which the book takes place is the same as their word for forest — stands out all the more acutely, when combined with the fact that the future Earth of Le Guin’s universe in the book, is a place nearly barren of vegetation.

A place no longer itself, if we are to follow with the example of identifying name with substance of origin.

There are a few ways in which this can be viewed, I think. To be sure, it’s a warning to think conservatively, economically, about ecology, to consider sustainability. The fact is, there’s a very real possibility that we’ll deplete this planet’s resources beyond their ability to safely sustain human life — before we’re ready and able to spread to other planets. Count me among those concerned with this possibility.

In the more immediate sense — though linked to this larger scenario — there’s the question of natural and unnatural (human/technological) change.

How do we view and compare the change of seasons, the relationship of man to Earth, when our lives are increasingly dependent not only on food, water and shelter — but also information?

Has it always been so? Are we humans simply maximizing efficiency, reaching new heights of speed and achievement as a social species? Or have our technologies set us on a path towards the super-human?

There’s a side to that second possibility that seems romantic, given our current obsessions with youth, virility, long-livedness and physical or mental perfection.

Who wouldn’t want to be super-human? And yet, in pushing the boundaries of the natural, are we dooming ourselves to an eventual loss of the very humanity we originally sought to embody, protect, and maintain?

So long as we remain mammals that need food, shelter, water — even as we strive further and further away from these basic needs and responsibilities in terms of focus, leaving behind whole swaths of the world population in the pursuit of knowledge — we remain, at our core, naturally human. But do we endanger this core identity, as we continue to grant equal or greater importance to other, less intrinsic needs, both on the personal and societal levels?

I don’t know. I have tended towards more optimistic views, in recent years. I want to believe the change of seasons will always remain generally the same, that as we strive and leverage the gifts of this planet and of science — that we will continue to enable ourselves to focus more completely on what it means to be human, to pursue knowledge and civilization as we make living easier through technology.

But there are warnings that we could, collectively, yet fail at this.

I also worry about apparent shifts in the seasons, no doubt at least a combination of human intervention as well as natural flux. I still worry about general trends that put the greed of the few ahead of the needs of the many.

Despite my hopefulness, it still sometimes seems just as possible that we’ll eventually face of day of reckoning, in regards to our relationship with this Earth, which we deign to have mastered but will always, more accurately, depend upon for everything.

We are of this beautiful place. It deserves our due respect, our love.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 5: On The Future of Labor

Day 6: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

On The Future of Labor (Day 5 of 30)

This is part five of a thirty day trial, during which I am going to write and publish a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

What I love about film is that it combines physical work with mental/emotional work.
What I love about film — how it combines physical work with mental/emotional work. What I don’t love about it — how accurately the typical production (and general industry culture) often reflects American inequality.

Today is that day that was invariably going to come along, in regards to this project of posting here every day for the month on September. I’m not sure what to write about.

This make me slightly sad, because it’s Labor Day.

Am I glad to have a day off? Yes.

Am I proud to be an American worker? In a way, yes.

Do I celebrate the contributions of laborers more active and resilient than me? Yes.

Is one day enough, to make up for decades-long general trends that have made life more difficult for laborers, more complicated, even as those at the very top have continued to do very well for themselves?

No, I don’t think it is.

We live in strange times. It’s no secret that I’ve wondered at length about them, about what’s next, about where we’re headed, what it will look like. I think this is why I’ve gravitated back to science fiction, where I started as a young avid content consumer (reader).

What does a robotic future look like for labor? Likely, not great. Is anything going to stop automation from replacing manual work, in the real, tactile world? I don’t think so.

Given the choice, would we completely want to stop this from happening? I think that depends on who you are, and how you make a living.

Where is the line between accepting change and demanding your fair due, based on contributions of the past — that built the foundations of today? Do we still even respect legacy in this way?

I know the world is always changing, but it seems to be changing quickly, now.

Some of this change seems inevitable and, perhaps, ultimately helpful. Some of it seems short-sighted, greedy, or at least of the sort that could be checked, slowed, made to respect the potential or very real damage it can and does cause to human life and happiness at large.

I’m a knowledge worker, and a content creator, in today’s parlance. On the one hand, I am soothed by the fact that mine is a specialized skill-set. We’ll always need stories, and I’m a storyteller. I even believe I could be of use in the zombie apocalypse. Anyone who has survived past hour twelve on a film shoot would be of service in the zombie apocalypse.

But I do worry about these things, as I wonder about them.

I worry that there’s no turning back, or checking the rush of the tide of technological change, this time — if there ever was a way to do either of these things. I worry that as technology cheapens everything, we’re headed towards decay and dysfunction for the majority, in service of growth and ascension for the minority — of the increasingly other-worldly wealthy elite.

Labor Day is not meant, I don’t think, to be a day of remembrance. It’s supposed to celebrate the contributions of labor to our prosperity both then and now. This is still, of course, a worthy use of our time.

But I believe our workers, myself among them, deserve more. We deserve ongoing respect, both for what we do and what we endure, what we’ve done, and how those contributions have laid (continue to lay) the groundwork for future growth and prosperity.

A well-deserved day off is a good opportunity to rest. It can also be a good time to not only appreciate ourselves and our peers, but also to take some time to reflect.

We are all of us essentially equal — so says our social contract. I think it’s acceptable, if not crucial, that we not only celebrate labor’s role in securing today’s prosperity as well as tomorrow’s, but also question our role in that tomorrow, and how that role is influenced, diminished, or manipulated by those in control of both our livelihoods and our news.

Whether we like it or not, we may also have to think how we might both accept this reality and yet challenge its assumptions (and ours).

Change doesn’t only happen. We can also enact it. That’s the beautiful thing about working towards the future. We’ll never get there, but we can look back after a while and see where all the chasing after it has gotten us.

I guess I found something to write about.

Day 1: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 2: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 3: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 4: Circle Up and Laugh