I'm Still Here

The blog posts for this site have grown scarce. I realize this. While disappointing to me, it has not been without reason. Or at least one I feel is somewhat acceptable. The truth is, I have been working heavily on a  few screenplays I have been at for years. Every blog I read, podcast I listen to, YouTube interview I watch, tells me that there comes a time when a writer simply must let go, when the dual road presents itself and you begrudgingly choose the path that leaves a long beloved work abandoned in the dust. I am not at that moment. True, I have tinkered with this thing for some time, but I'm not there.

I have toyed with throwing it against the wall. I have growled at the screen, punched my desk, refused to feed my dog for 3 whole minutes, or just paced back and forth around our tiny living room speaking at the air. But it was all for a purpose. I wasn't and am not ready to part with it. And I can say now that it paid off. Not in the sense of an impending sale, or the announcement of a Hollywood production. I'm just proud of it. I recently hired a career coach to help guide me through this crazy fucking process. We talk every few weeks where we discuss what I'm doing, and to ensure the goals I set for myself are being met, that I'm actually doing what I set out to, which is write.

My commitment since partnering with her last month has been to finish re-writes of 2 current screenplays by the end of this year and as the new year ushers in, begin the process of completing 2 brand new screenplays in 2018. Ignoring sleep for the past few months and nearly injecting myself with caffeine every night, I'm only 30 pages away from fulfilling the first part of this goal. Come the new year, I'll meet the stark terrain of the blank page and commit myself once again. What this means is that more time may pass in between blog posts, though hopefully not too much. I will still be contributing to the blog and have a plan in place to prevent it from becoming stagnant, or just less so.

My friend Devonne Amos, following the recent launch of the first edition of his comic book series Riley And The Big Bear, will still be asked to contribute his brilliant artwork to new pieces of mine next year and has been working on an updated logo for my website. As this site has become more blog inspired, I wanted the logo to reflect that direction. That's not to suggest I won't be committed to my photography, or that new photos won't be added (quite the contrary). This change just makes sense. All things burning in the pipeline. So, my lovely friends and family, I thank you so much for your continued interest and support of this website. I'm excited about what I'll be working on next year and will eventually share with you all.

As a creator, one of the hardest things I've had to learn how to do is market myself. It's so terribly uncomfortable for me. But all creators, regardless of what those things are, need to do this. Devonne did a wonderful job at marketing his comic. I take notes from his approach. I have a few blogs burning holes in the "archives" and will post in time. I just ask for your patience. I will also be posting snippets of my screenplays, new and old, throughout the writing process simply as an exercise as I slowly crawl through the gorge of self promotion. If I annoy you, I apologize. If I don't, I'll just try harder. So again, thank you all. 

The Road Is Home To Maniacs

I am sitting in the passenger seat of our car heading northbound on Interstate 5. We're on the long road home from a family trip to Legoland and the much anticipated San Diego Zoo, both of which featured an array of impressive exhibits and rides that almost now seem like a distant memory when compared against the invasion of mind loss that is trips with our kids. Along with the hugs and laughter, there's the yelling, disciplining, threatening of toy removal and post bedtime binge drinking that have all become staples of our family vacation checklist. Those pictures you often see on Facebook of people basking in the bliss of family unity are almost cruel and just a little bullshit.

I know, because I'm guilty of the same selective advertising. But the truth is, vacations with children, for all intents and purposes, are a fucking mess. In between the joy and wonder of a child's first experience with something are the hours upon hours of brain pillaging episodes where even the sanest of parents must fight tooth and nail to manage. But manage them we do. We've been down this road before. It's like going out with a friend you know is going to get you arrested, or petting a sleeping cat on the belly. The outcome should never be surprising. It's the most expensive type of reality check there is, but we endure it because above all else, they're comprised of moments we'll cherish and remember for the rest of our lives. And as challenging as they may often be, I look forward to them every time. 

Still, writing this in my car, my dad braving the long, barren drive of I5, I question why we continue to do this to ourselves. I'm being dramatic, of course. And my wife will probably say I'm overreacting. But overreacting is a part of parenting, no matter what the situation. A scrape on the knee, a cough, a bloody nose, the mere thought of your child being bullied, or worse, your child becoming one, all drive the hairs through the silver brush. The reaction is a basic impulse. What some parents may feel is perfectly normal, others see as the end of humanity. I'm somewhere in between. But a trip with kids, where the thought of relaxation is the punchline to a sad joke, can be its own version of adult hell. And there I am at the fiery throne kneeling to it every chance I get.

history in the remaking

Last month, Josephine and I took a trip to San Diego with our two boys and my dad. It was to celebrate our son Samuel's 6th birthday, an event that didn't arrive until after we had returned. I picked up a GoPro Hero 5 Session a few days previous to chronicle the trip. As a photographer, I feel I've done a good job capturing crucial moments from my children's lives. But one thing I've failed to commit those memories to is video. Stills capture moments. Video enlivens them. Unlike most footage people share, flash cards of unicorns and rainbows isn't always what you experience. We knew where this road would lead us. With our parent checklist ready, we began.

Our first destination was Legoland, located in beautiful Carlsbad, CA. While awesome, the significance of being trapped in a world meant to appear as if built using an easily detachable brick system was not lost on me. For at times, it acted as a metaphor for the framework of our sanity, and our patience being the very Lego piece stabbing into each other's bare feet. But the boys loved the place. Despite the forum it provided for them to turn into the occasional asshole, so did we. We watched as our raving little ones ran amok with excitement, bringing a whole new level of exhaustion to the playing field. My wife and I, being the mindful 21st century parents we are, had forgotten our son Joseph's stroller at home and made every effort we could to avoid having to carry him. The park only being open from 10am-5pm (on some days) certainly helped. 

The hotel room, following the long and tiring day, was where my wife and I regrouped. As some parents can tell you, this is not possible without alcohol, and we made damn sure our investment was put to use. The battles of putting tired kids to bed is a chore all its own, as you often run into a steel wall at every turn; The zombies grunting at you in a darkened alley as they half ass every single task they're given, all while offering highly intellectual commentary of why you're the worst parents in the world for simply wanting them to shut the fuck up and get some rest. More than once, my sons announced their decision that I was no longer to be loved. But following an exhausting day in the sun and Tango & Cash having just started on AMC, I couldn't give two shits. We lick our wounds, wait for the morning to come, and start again.

It's All A Zoo!

Next on the agenda was the world famous San Diego Zoo, an enormous and beautiful park where my hypocrisy on the subject of caged animals could run free. We didn't quite know what to expect of this place, as neither of us had been there. But as zoos go, it didn't disappoint. One thing a park of this size begs to remind you of is how out of shape you really are. As the day carried on, I felt the bones in my legs spit rust as I walked, with Sammy and Jojo harnessing what felt like a perpetual amount of energy. Ever the animal enthusiasts, they loved every section of this place. It's amazing when you witness your children show genuine excitement about something that actually warrants it. That's a matter of preference, I know. But no matter how hard I tried, I could never echo the enjoyment that went into watching an episode of fucking Caillou. I'd rather sit through a family viewing of Faces Of Death.

Hearing them marvel at the roar of a tiger or the mere sight of an elephant was truly special. I wanted to bottle it up. For every shouting match we refereed, there were moments of pure joy that made it all worth it. This is the very thing we take away from any family trip we embark upon and the understanding that none of this was ever supposed to be easy. It’s during the difficult times where my wife and I have scribbled our most valuable notes. It's how we learn as parents. We steered through an emotional rainfall when our son Joseph was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in 2014 and at 9 months old, underwent an intensive surgery that prefaced a year long bout with chemotherapy. By comparison, any challenge we face now trying to get them to brush their teeth or return to their beds in the middle of the night is an ink blot on a mural.

My dad accompanying us for the trip meant so much to me, as it emphasized the bond not only of father and son but of grandparents and their impact on our boys. I pondered this for days after we returned home, unpacking what felt like an entire closet of life while shaking the limbs from our bodies. We were back, stationed again in the war room that is our household. Tomorrow, when we wake up, our kids will be older, getting ready for their first dates, graduating from college and starting families of their own. Those are all moments to come. We'll hold on to these for now.

Our sons Samuel (left) and Joseph share a moment in front of the Elliott Smith tribute wall in Los Angeles, CA.

Our sons Samuel (left) and Joseph share a moment in front of the Elliott Smith tribute wall in Los Angeles, CA.

Mediocrity Is Genius

What the hell is happening? This is a question I hear uttered so frequently now. Not only from the mouths of my friends and family, but political figures, writers, celebrities, girl scouts. Much of what we've seen unfold this past month in present day America is unparalleled. But I beg to know how it all started, where the stalk met the fruit of this entire fucking mess. On one hand, our country has always had a fascination with train wrecks. It's the same reason people cause traffic on the freeway, slowing down to browse the tabloids on the side of the road, which in most cases turns out to be nothing more than a minor accident. We all have to watch. And now that a verifiable madman has been given the keys to The White House, we all can.

Artwork by Devonne Amos

It's as if America has finally premiered season one of a years-in-development reality series for the entire world to watch. And who better a star than an attention-whoring beggar of the national spotlight? I'm not trying to tickle under the arm of despair, but it's hard to feign optimism when it's being bled through the papers daily, with every headline catering more and more to the narrative.

I used to think shows like The Shield (my all time favorite) or The Walking Dead (sometimes) did an okay job of grabbing you early, demanding interest. But this new program seems to be mastering this technique with every passing minute it airs. An over-saturated first season, yes. But it has commanded the world's attention. It's not the velocity of the story's development. It's just the way in which its audience has been triggered to react, both in staunch support of, or as many of the recent protests or memes have indicated, viciously against. And it is not stopping.

But yet I still ask. How the fuck did we get here?

The Past Is Current

When MTV's The Real World debuted in 1992, its creators, aiming to show a side of the network unfamiliar to its audience at the time, invited seven twenty-somethings who had never met before to live together, and record their daily happenings. During the opening credits, the voice of each cast member can be heard saying the now famous: "This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real." The genre was slowly learning how to walk but had garnered plenty of attention. It opened a generation's eyes, inviting topics of race and sexuality into discussion. To its viewers, this is how people behaved. And because we saw it with our very eyes, we believed it.

As further seasons aired, phrases like "scripted television" became a common criticism of the platform, while stories of cast members getting evicted due to drug use and violent outbursts arose. It was groundbreaking in how effectively it captured its target audience, bleeding productivity dry for 32 total seasons. Where earlier ones made an attempt to expose its audience to the intricacies of human interaction, the following seasons, as the years and genre progressed, only seemed focused on painting a mural of debauchery and downright buffoonery for its viewers, an approach that some might argue contributed heavily to the birth of the train wreck on-looker we now know.

With the rise of shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and even The Apprentice, which Donald Trump himself hosted for 14 years, reality TV tapped into every artery it could, personalities like the Kardashians continually injecting themselves into the veins of impressionable young adults everywhere. That the occupant of the most powerful seat in the world stemmed from this league of fabrication from which he appears to have no plan to depart is what's so frightening. 1992 brought The Real World, New York into living rooms across the world. 2016 and nearly half the nation's residents created a new series: The Real World, America, a shit show of ungodly proportions. 

Gone are the days of David "Puck" Rainey pestering his roommates with his eccentricities and snot rockets, or the gel-saturated bravado of the entire cast of The Jersey Shore. This is far more dangerous, not to mention embarrassing. Qualities such as intelligence and commonsense seem like foreign concepts to this new commander in chief, with simple questions, no matter how trivial, appearing to challenge him to no end. If the Blu-ray edition were to see its release replete with behind the scenes footage and never before seen interviews, I fear the suicide rate in the country will skyrocket. Every time the President speaks, we're wondering what he might say next. Do we laugh? Do we correct him, if only from the confines of our living rooms?

We're like victims in a horror movie other nations are shouting at the screen to alert. But we've seen the ax from the moment it was forged, handed over to a maniac and swung like a pendulum at our country's values, free speech and, I worry, its credibility. And that's just a portion of it. Whenever someone posts a clip on Facebook of a dude falling down, celebrities making fools of themselves or some dumb cat video I've seen a hundred times, it shares the same meaningless quality of any clip of the President opening his fucking mouth. It shouldn't be this way. We should want to hear what this man has to say, not be entertained by it. We should learn something from it, not feel progress has receded because of it. Is that a light I see at the end of the tunnel, or just the sun eclipsed by an asshole?

Looking for Anything

Social Media has become one of the strongest enablers of reality TV personalities. It not only promotes them, but almost encourages us to embody them ourselves. Our lives are becoming diluted with endless filters, Snapchat and Instagram stories that publicize our every move. Is this what has made the thought of someone like Donald Trump in the White House a reality? Ridiculous, sure. But who knows? I just know I want to. Are we becoming more and more self centered? Are the percentages of people who really just don't give a shit that fucking high? The media reported of a ghastly amount of Americans who didn't even bother showing up at the polls to vote, following an election season that, sadly, was just the opening credits of the reality show we're currently watching, and even more disturbingly, now cast members of.

This past January, I joined my wife and friends for the Women's March in San Jose, CA in support of equality and human rights. What it really meant for me was a fist raised at the tyrannical views of this new leadership, a rejection of the hate and discrimination this White House seems eager to stimulate. This is a subjective view, I'll admit. But the millions of protesters around the world who contributed to this very message are the collective rebellion so many of us need. Now is that time, where people should speak up, stand on the shoulders of strangers and raise a flag. Even though Trump's presidency is still in its infancy, he has gotten far with his rhetoric and falsehoods.

His recent address to Congress, although more grounded than usual, still begs to be dissected, as his overall message still comes from a place of fear-titillating bullshit, where racism, social injustice, and LGBTQ rights are back burner topics. The American Flag bleeds of the lies this man has told in his first month in office. The treatment of media outlets that don't immediately fall to their knees is startling. How the fuck else do we get our information? Do some media organizations fart all over the pages? Sure. I read stupid headlines on Facebook every day, sometimes posted by people I know. But I don't believe that is what keeps this man up at night. What all reputable news organizations should propose is this: "Dear Mr. President. When you stop telling lies about us, we'll stop telling the truth about you." 

But I don't want that. And I'm hoping nobody else does either. We need the media now more than ever. We need the truth. We need Mulder and Scully to set the black oil aside and join the fight. We need presidential Paris Hilton to understand that there are those of us who won't concede to his cabinet of Kaiju. We need the producers of this reality series (everyone who voted for him) to pull the plug on production and rewrite the story. It's a nice dream, a violin-led sonnet to help ease my mind of this dreadful situation. And after that, maybe I'll hand it to Mr. Trump, and thank him for his service. I might even ask him for his autograph. He's a reality TV star by the way. But only if he signs it "Yours falsely, The President." That, I may be able to do.

Red, White and You

To Everyone Affected By The Tantrum Of A Grown Man, A Phony Christian, A Naked Soul, A Spineless Misogynist, A Tiny Handed War Monger, A Pussy Grabbing Demagogue, A Racist Billionaire, A Feather-Haired Bootlicker, A Serial Liar, A Clueless Businessman, An Alternative Fact Spewing Cocksucker, A Wolf In Sheep's Skin, A Pillow Fighting Sycophant, A Draft Dodging Bully, A Disability Mocking Buffoon, A Thesaurus Challenged Homophobe, A Rights Stripping Moron, I Support You. I Stand With You, Behind You, Next To You, In Front Of You. The Corner Is Not Lonely. It Is Cold, It Is Dark. stick your hand out. It Is Rife With Hands That Will Reach Out To Grab it. I will Give You Mine. So Many Of Us Will. Through this fight. This struggle. For You. For Us amidst This Terrible Fucking Nightmare. And When We Awake From It, a Flag and its color will Be Reunited. Its Glow restored. Its Embrace Of Nature, A Heart Running Rampant In a Chest Of Diversity.

It Will Be That Way.

It Has To.

It Will.