10.19.2014

Notes from the Fog



On our  way to school this week, Addison and I were loving the fog.  The perpetual illusion that we were about to drive off the edge of the earth.  The fog ahead seemed a visual signal of the end of reality.

For the last few years I have been giving up on various visions of the future that I had, heretofore:

"believed in."

Imagine a meticulously handpainted theatre backdrop suddenly retracted up into one of those magical screen rollers, and the shock of realizing that what's behind that screen?

Fog.

Last week another screen rolled up and I'm looking at the fog (again).

It isn't as thrilling as the fog was when Addison and I were driving to school.   As visually stunning as the fog was?  The road was familiar and a repeat.  And what's more?  I have driven through that fog before.  And every time, the road continues, and it is familiar and repetitive, and the fog rolls back a bit more.

The only comfort to me about the fog of the future?

Is that I am at least not looking at a screen.  I am reconciled to moving forward and I am reconciled that the outcomes are unknown.  And I am sometimes okay with that.  Sometimes.

Those screens were just so convincing, you know? Happy endings?  Clear directions?  Occupational trajectories?  Destinies?

The details were so meticulously painted!  So agreed upon by everyone!  So endorsed and prescribed and affirmed!

(In my last blog post I gave up on inbetween-ness and committed to a direction.  The re-appearance of a post here? Is, yes, a re-commitment to the journey.  The foggy, destiny-free journey. )

3.23.2014

Moving On


I just finished my Picture A Day For A Year blog and there is something rewarding and nourishing about being DONE with something.  You look at it and you think: I set out to achieve something and I accomplished it.  So much of life (particularly life at middle age) is defined by wading through perpetually unfinished (and seemingly unfinishable) work.  I assume that's why people become consumed with lawn-mowing, gardening and home-improvement projects -- these things are uniquely unlike the nourishment and attention they lavish on their jobs, their families and their self-development -- because they are finished.  (Thus, too the proliferation of 26.2, 13.1, 3.1 stickers on the backs of cars?  Finish lines everywhere to help us manage the unfinishability.)

So the last post I wrote was about a feature film I was hoping to make and part of me wants to take the post down and pretend like it never happened.  It would be easier to imagine that NOT FINISHING wasn't a part of my life, that I have never failed at anything and that my life, like most of the lives represented on the internet is NOT disappointing.

But the truth is that I'm not going to make that movie.  And while I can imagine that sometime I would change my mind about this?  I'm actually not planning on making movies any more at all.  Depending on who you are and how you know me -- this may seem like a big shock or a massive contradiction of my essence.  But it's not, I assure you.  These kinds of transitions (like the structures of scientific revolutions in Kuhn's wonderful extended essay about the nature of academic thinking and the history of human thought) happen gradually and slowly and probably even? Inevitably.  And when they do reach the tipping point or the day that they must be announced?  They *seem* monumental, but upon further and deeper examination? They've been a long time coming.

This isn't really supposed to be a post about movie-making or goodbyes though.  It's actually a post about what's next.  Well, it's ACTUALLY actually a post about the fact that there might *be* a next.  I'm not going to say exactly what the *next* is right now and right here, I'm just going to allude to it and then probably say more about it later.

This blog has been called the inbetween for a long time and for a lot of reasons.

I studied Van Gennep's ideas about limin and liminality when I was writing about Garage Sales in graduate school.  I have always loved the fluctuation, potential and magic that can emerge because of inbetween-ness.  And as I entered middle aged adulthood with this blog the frame "inbetween" seemed uniquely helpful for capturing my life as I understood it.  I could write several books about how and why I came to appreciate inbetween-ness, but the truth is:  I'm a little bit tired of being inbetween.

I'm a strong "P" on the Meiers Briggs test which means I have an almost indefinite ability to persist without closure or definition, but there is a bit of a cost that comes with deferring so long.  I know that because I've spent 44 years being okay with "inbetween" -- that it will always be a part of me, but I think I'm going to create another online space to chronicle this new chapter in my life. The part of me that is no longer trying to straddle two professions (higher education and filmmaking) but the part who is instead committing to something new.  Something that I want.

Here's the plan: in order to avoid another public accountability debacle like that of my last (and now officially inaccurate) post, I'm going to write there for a little while before I start inviting everybody to read.  If you happen to find it?  Of course you can read it, but it'll take me a while to get my bearings and find my voice.  If you're still interested in two months -- I'll announce my new blog here and you can unsubscribe from this chronicle and sign up for the next one.

I'm glad to have had this outlet and I'm particularly grateful to the readers who mean more to me than I can probably express in the thinness that this medium affords.


1.14.2014

Location Location Location



I have a goal this year that I want to make a movie.  I actually have a short documentary halfway finished and maybe I'm going to just finally finish it.  It's a project that has been gestating for almost ten years and I'd love to give birth to it.  But I have this other project that has grown up in the meantime. This project is a feature film that I'm pretty excited about.

I finished a draft of the script during Christmas Break, and the truth is I want every week of the year to feel tethered in some way to the project, whether or not the project is going work or not.  I'm not letting myself give into the kinds of worry and doubt that threaten any artistic project whose scale is ambitious.  I'm going to keep going forward to this project until:

A.)  I shoot it, edit it, ship it to festivals and find some distribution.

or

B.) realize on the journey of pre-production that I can't make it work at this time in my life.

But I would prefer "A.)" please.

So I'm going to blog here (since most of my readers are generally friends invested in my life journey) about this particular bend in the road.

I went scouting last week on a lark because I couldn't find the time or the energy to sit down and really push those revisions into reality.  I thought for sure that I would find my perfect neighborhood on 16th Street or 17th Street.  Canton is the kind of city where income level and class stratification generally can be mapped in gradients that get gradually darker or lighter as you move North and South up and down Cleveland Avenue.

I almost gave up after a few streets and alleys of not finding what I was looking for.  Then I found the street above.  It's really perfect.

So if you recognize those houses?  If you're the president of this neighborhood association?  You're my new Most Favored Person.  Please call.  Soon.  I have a pitch for you.

1.07.2014

Leaves.


When the car backs out the driveway,
the tires crunching across the frigid, unshoveled driveway,
and the squeaking rattling gears and rollers of the electric garage door,
are muted by the steady churning of the dishwasher here in the kitchen.

The puppy at the window, watching,
manages to top off the noise with pathetic whines dueting
with a gutteral growl that sounds too old and bitter for his young body,
so i lean down and pet him and say, it's all right. everything is all right.

Now you know, don't you?  I am
a grownup, a really socially graceful, nuanced and delicate
grownup who knows how to say its all right in a way that sounds
deliciously convincing. in other words i am an expert liar.

the funny thing about becoming a
self-aware grownup? is that there are these whispers in your
head that tell the truth even when you're perfectly managing the
delicate art of telling the lie that proves you to be nothing close to what you hope to be.

12.08.2013

Beautiful Accidents and Contemporary Aesthetics

This is another capture from my camera-phone and the fortuitous moment of coming upon a fleet of buses WHILE one is poised enough to snap a photo seems, well, something akin to newsworthy.

It's funny how the television news has come to be, for many, the definitive mode of staying connected to the ideas and places and issues of our time.  Postman's argument that television is a terrible place to get news goes as unheeded as most of the other great prophets of history -- but that doesn't diminish the viability of his claims.

Television is a terrible place to get news for many reasons - the first is that news worth knowing is not easily articulated in pictures.  There's two reasons why that idea is true: the first is that articulating the connections between important ISSUES and current EVENTS in ways that are EVEN-HANDED is terribly hard to do with pictures.  Words and abstractions much more quickly make these kinds of connections for us. It's not impossible to do this, just very difficult and very unlikely.

And that brings me to the second reason that idea is true -- it's very rare that anyone takes the right picture at the right time.  Even if you're a whiz and crafting story from pictures and videos (which you'd need to be in order to make those important connections), who *ever* has the right pictures from the right moment?  As much as the news is well-served by photographic and video documentation, it is equally ill-served by second hand reports of the events.  The result is that television news is primarily made up of images from stock photo files, video news reels provided by those who have money to make video news reels (government bureaus, public relations wings of corporations), after-the-event footage from "the scene of the crime," and loads of polished anchors and reporters with carefully crafted lights, audio, wardrobe, makeup and hair.  The news becomes an advertisement for a number of things that remain unstated and over-articulated; and barely about the issues & events in even-handed, concrete, immediate terms.

So I found it "newsworthy" that I happened upon these buses emerging the school simply because my quick phone-snap gave voice to the dreariness of overly bureaucratized, institutionalized, homogenizing contemporary school.  The buses are so even and uniform and predictable in their decline across the face of the photograph. Their continuity and the way they grow as they tumble toward us and our point of view?  Seems vaguely ominous to me.  They're COMING!  (For you?)  The weather provides tonal detail too.  The melting snow, the falling rain, the bleak grey sky.  Even the stop sign (another bit of evidence of our highly routenized daily grind) doesn't offer us a patch of red; governing the emergence of the buses, it shows us only it's backside.  It too is grey.   Finally the photo offers some incipient sense of tragedy.  Since the front bus has already stopped and may be turning toward us, there may be a collision about to happen.  The lens flare at the bottom of the frame only heightens the imminence of a flame, an explosion, or a collision.

Of course the crash didn't happen.  Yet.  It's only a metaphor.  But the point of this metaphor is prophetic now that we've read the photo in such detail.  Contemporary education cannot continue to be shaped by the industrial and bureaucratic concerns that currently shape the culture of testing, assessment, standards and interventions.  It's true that with a fleet of buses this effective, no child will be left behind.  But do we really want any of these children to arrive at the destination they're being borne away toward?