Tag Archives: technology

Take Two

clapperboard1 2For more than a year, I have been burdened with the weight of lost opportunities, disappearing days, and a sense that I have made some very wrong turns on the road of life. I started to become acquainted with the lack of passion and the repetition of carbon copy weeks, but the last few months have brought some more pronounced realizations into focus.

I am not the person I wanted to be, the adult I envisioned, or the man fulfilling the dreams of my youth. I am merely existing, walking a line of straight, colorless paths with no discernible destination.

There is a buzz in my brain like the frequency of a guitar amp someone left humming in the corner of the room. That white noise has been there for years, but the murmur used to be a higher pitch, and it would fluctuate when life threw a curveball or offered a piece of good news. Now, it’s more of a drone,  whirring without variation in volume or tone. A flatline.

Luckily, I don’t get depressed, or this situation could get sticky. But, the fact that the current state of affairs is offering little in the way of options or progress is certainly a concern.

I am no longer a wily, wide-eyed teen with a long list of life’s adventures waiting to be checked. But I’m also not a twenty-something with ample time to make mistakes on the way to self-discovery. The blisters on my feet from spinning in circles on the road less traveled are starting to bleed through the socks.

Current technology doesn’t allow us to roll back the clock for another chance to do it right. I used to think that every situation and experience are specifically put on our plates to teach us lessons and make us who we are today. But, I have started wishing for another shot at living life the right way.

Like an adult do-over, I’ve been thinking about clean slates and going back to the starting line. I don’t mean this in a “if I knew then what I know now” kind of way. I’m talking about a true reboot. I want to begin the whole process again, without squandering my talent, wasting my time, and getting in my own way.

Reincarnation is probably my only viable shot at this plan, so I suppose I just have to cross my fingers and wait for round two.

I’m reminded of this quote from one of my favorite films, “Rounders,” and it hits home now more than ever:

“You don’t hear much about guys who take their shot and miss, but I’ll tell you what happens to ’em. They end up humping crappy jobs on graveyard shifts, trying to figure out how they came up short.”

Luckily, I’m not punching the graveyard card clock just yet, but I can certainly identify with the sentiment.

The future is not entirely bleak, and I’m taking the steps necessary to generate momentum. But, hitting a giant reset button doesn’t feel like the worst idea.

I suppose I’m stuck in this skin until it wrinkles and sags, so I may as well make the most of it.

Puppet Shows for All the People

photo (2)Is life an illusion?

Now, I’m not asking this in a Matrix-y, alien-controlled consciousness kind of way. But, the more I step back to observe modern society and the dance we all do for each other, the more I see the green screen.

There’s an inherent irony in the fact that we crave reality and authenticity, but seem to do everything in our power to present ourselves in a wholly contrived and artificial light. This goes beyond stiffly posed selfies and the artifice of our various social networks. There are examples everywhere.

I spend a lot of time on sets, so I get to see the wizard behind the curtain on a regular basis. Still, each time I watch an actor or product in extreme closeup, only to see an army of disinterested crew members sleepily checking their phones or watching the clock, it’s hard to invest in the emotional stock of an actress with tears streaming down her face.

It’s all about framing, but I suppose we crave this type of art forgery because we keep buying. Audiences at live tapings coaxed to holler and scream at the most mundane jokes, the epilepsy-inducing graphics at sporting events, or “reality” shows cut and edited to the point of absurdity have all become so commonplace that any version of something substantial is merely a filtered illusion.

We are hyper engaged and video crazed, and real life moves way too slowly. Instant gratification at breakneck broadband speeds and temporary comprehension are the trends of the day.

Now, I admit I’m the first to jump on a technological bandwagon, but this is only the roller coaster climb. We’re not slowing down and we’re not asking for a return to accuracy or purity. We hunger for the fireworks and we like to believe people can be superheroes. But if the gimmicks get us through the day, who am I to argue? Life is tough enough.

I guess it’s time to go live vicariously through more of the French Open.

Giving Doubt and Taking Back the Benefit

phoneThe regular ridicule I’ve gotten in my life for keeping records, taking notes, and tracking telephone interactions is all just extra paint on the big colorful canvas I call an organized existence. Jab me about my checklists and poke fun about my calendars, but the self-satisfaction I’ve gotten the last few months from flawless follow-ups to customer service representatives makes all that fun-making fade into the distance.

It’s easy to call it compulsive. Marking down the dates a letter is received or when an initial phone call is placed might seem excessive or unnecessary. But, it’s pretty effortless and it saves a mountain of frustration in the end.

My “key theory” falls into the same category. How often do people run around the house at the last minute, searching for their elusive keys, with each tick of the clock exacerbating their tardiness? If they were kept in a designated key area, there would be no reason to alert the bloodhounds to join you in the hunt or create false scenarios about bad traffic and road closures when you walk past disapproving scowls, stumbling into the morning meeting 20 minutes after donut distribution.

Preparation and order rewards those who allow them in their lives. To be reliable and informed—as opposed to a scatterbrained flake—is something to be praised, not punished.

So, back to my telephone tag/faulty case number/taciturn supervisor juggling routine. The universe happened to unload multiple situations requiring boundless patience for bottomless hold times and the kind of diligent record-keeping rarely seen outside of IRS offices. If I were Johnny Casual, I would take those people at their word, thank them for all their helpful information, and wait for those guaranteed returned phone calls and speedy case resolutions.

But, we live in a world where almost no one does what they’re supposed to do—or even makes an attempt at punctuality. These are simply the realities of our modern society, as we make the sluggish transition from humans to computers. We are wrought with growing pains and this spreading plague of unrestrained apathy isn’t making things any easier. I can’t even begin to talk about the post office. I don’t have the strength.

The best we can do is take a stand. We can strive to be as efficient and organized as a machine, thus elevating ourselves above the sluggish drones and into a space where the air is fresh and the flickering fluorescent lights aren’t melting our brains.

But, I have to admit, rattling off the names of each supervisor, the dates I called, each digit of my assigned case numbers, and the particulars of the discussions not only ironed the wrinkles of what should have been unbearable transactions, it felt damn good.

You can retain your unintelligible reminders, unwieldy paper trails, and shoebox receipt shenanigans. I’ll be here with my alphabetized file folders and a bold, almost laughable level of record-keeping confidence.

The Beauty of Authenticity

MASKMost of us walk through the world craving truth and validity, wearing masks to hide our intentions and insecurities. We post pictures capturing flashes of how we’d like to be perceived, and delete anything that might prove contradictory. We manufacture images built from aspirational notions, and hope no one notices the holes in our Swiss cheese.

It’s a high-wire routine, and many times we’re left swaying on a safety net—feeling anything but safe—and wondering how we fell. But, what if we removed the mirage and abandoned the ruse? What if we stopped filtering our words and screening our thoughts?

The consequences would be disastrous, right? How would we manipulate one another, gaining what we want by leaving a trail of unsuspecting victims in our path? How else could we construct perfect alibis and hide honest opinions inside of false compliments?

I’m not claiming this transition would succeed without bruises, and I don’t know if it’s even feasible in a technologically translucent society. But, beating the bedrock to expose a fallacious foundation may not be the worst use of our united efforts.

Games are fun, and they serve their purpose at birthday parties, baby showers, and wine-guzzling get-togethers. But, an existence safeguarding every word and action is a life spent toiling against the grain. Leave the fantasy on stage, and say what’s in your heart. It’s a dose of fresh air in a crammed elevator, and it feels fantastic.

Old habits die hard, but allowing even a modicum of legitimacy to creep into your vocalized notions will give the those tiny roots permission to sprout. Before long, we’ll all be standing atop a tree of transparency…or not.

Beneath the Heft of Hourglass Sand

mother_and_child_by_wakeupfantasy-d5au6fy

“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

A few days ago, I woke up with the unfortunate impulse to reach for my phone for some helpful advice. Still half-asleep, I found myself dropping into a familiar Google search sinkhole of facts and opinions, unsubstantiated claims, and broad generalizations. But, between the lines, I found pieces of heart-wrenching truth.

See, I live with an incessant worry about the future. Now, I’m not speaking about the glorious, hyper-technological, world-revolutionizing future. All notions of our impending singularity do nothing but paint a Jack Nicholson-sized joker smile across my mug.

What I’m referring to is a future of dwindling time, limited resources, and the daunting prospect of uncontrollable aging. I don’t sit, wrapped in a panic poncho, because of concerns about my own mortality. I never much feared or questioned death. I see it as a necessary component of the cycle of life and I will face it with as much bravery as my age and mental capacity can muster.

My fear and—more specifically—my sadness live under the weight of losing my partner.

It’s always been just Mom and me. I don’t have any siblings and I reside in a city 3,000 miles from any member of my family. I only get major holidays and my annual summer trip to connect through a means other than Skype, and her 30-year head start is beginning to feel like a lead I can’t catch.

So, I thought I would research the notion of caring for an aging parent as an only child. It took less than three results for me to realize I had bitten off a much bigger quandary cookie than I wanted to swallow. It was fear wrapped inside of speculative projection. This was no way to start a day and, contrary to popular belief, streaming tears don’t help lubricate a sun salutation.

The role-swapping will be one of the more difficult transitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I often feel like a young kid walking around playing pretend in a grownup world. To not only own the idea that I am an adult, but to take full responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of the one person who wore those gloves so perfectly seems like some Copperfield-level form of deception. I’ve been awarded the job and I’m utterly unqualified.

But, I can’t say all the literature was discouraging. One story emphasized the sense of relief the author felt being able to control the care and health trajectory of his mother. He wasn’t lost in sibling bickering and he didn’t harbor the resentment that can arise from feeling like no one else is pitching in to help. He was able to direct every aspect of her treatment and could ensure her best interests were protected. Obviously, bearing the full brunt of responsibility isn’t easy, but knowing that each detail is carefully coordinated can help avoid a messy meal made from too many cooks in the kitchen.

Reading this information wasn’t a relief. I still walk toward the future like an ice skater checking the depth of a frozen lake. But to know that there are people out there grappling with the same doubts and fears made me feel less alone and momentarily quelled my trepidation.

This isn’t painless. It’s not supposed to be. When you care about someone else’s life more than your own, there is an inherent price tag on that love. If something is worth preserving, it has value. If that value is greater than the premium you place on yourself, all your cards are on the table. It is the very meaning of vulnerability, and it’s terrifying. But, attempting to control the uncontrollable is an exercise in futility.

Enjoy each and every shared moment, and savor the small stuff. The rest is just an illusion.

Now, it’s time to take my own advice.

Weightless and Waiting

hd-wallpaper-earth-from-space-104

Although I was fast to find every available screening seat for most of this year’s Oscar contenders,  I’ll admit I was a bit late to the “Gravity” party. My aversion to 3D technology, coupled with a reluctance to see a film that would almost definitely cause a violent case of vertigo, significantly delayed my time at the ticket window. But, last weekend I finally watched what I can only describe as a mind-bending, perspective-shifting cinematic experience.

Unfortunately, I had to travel deep into the Valley to find one of the only 2D presentations of this film. But it was worth the drive, and well worth the wait.

Lately, I’ve had a hard time shaking a feeling that has been lingering for a long time. It has been increasingly difficult to find solid ground. There’s an ever-present sense of floating, in both the figurative and literal sense. I’m continuously searching for the elusive sand beneath my toes.

A variety of factors are fueling my personal levitation, but adding the terrifying truth that we are literally suspended in the middle of infinite blackness, peppered between stars and solar systems, forced an instant pause and evaluation session.

A frame of reference is a powerful thing, and sometimes the picture we meticulously paint over a lifetime is merely a brush stroke on the canvas of eternity. Our insignificance in the universe should be a liberating, shackle-breaking sense of freedom, but somehow I feel caged by it. It would be so much easier to wander through the days with my head buried beneath the sand, but my wiring is not programmed for blind compliance.

I want to know more about the reason we’re weightless and waiting. I want to know why we’re left alone with thoughts that keep us awake, with spinning minds and nervous hands. These are impossible answers to impossible questions, I guess. We are an infant species with an endless chasm of uncertainties at our feet. But, the idea that everything around us exists in a bubble of questions is unsettling.

Maybe I’m just a maniac. Maybe it’s time to stop wondering why, and just find a way to be happy inside the microcosm. Maybe time will provide the solutions and justifications.

But, as Jodie Foster famously said, “The universe is a pretty big place. It’s bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So, if it’s just us…seems like an awful waste of space. “

They’re All Made Out of Ticky-Tacky, and They All Look Just the Same.

Bing Crosby And Mary Carlisle In 'Doctor Rhythm'

While reading on the beach in our customary 80-degree January weather, I couldn’t help but notice a striking disconnect among the various couples surrounding my meticulously-positioned lounge chair. At first, I assumed I was jumping to generalizations about boredom inside of stale relationships or the blatant escape tactic of focusing way too much energy on constructing the kid’s sandcastle instead of recognizing the glaring danger signs inside a faltering marriage. But, then I took a closer look.

As I stretched in the sun (with my Kindle steady in hand), I watched people sitting together, but alone. Even those without children, presumably in new relationships, had about as much enthusiasm for one another as dentists have for their halitosis patients. It was detachment at its most fundamental form. I tried to catch pieces of conversations to better paint a picture of the reasons behind the laconism, but the couples were just that. Silent. They acted as if never saying a word to each other was the most normal thing in the world. Apparently, this was their version of a union.

If these people were wrinkling in the sun, deep into their 80’s or 90’s, I would have given them a pass. But, these were not alliances built from history or struggle. These were not teammates who saw the best and worst of the world together, and were now relaxing into the last chapter of their lives with a comfortable understanding of one another’s every quirk and nuance. Some of these purveyors of the silent treatment were barely out of college. Has your partner already become that wildly boring that you feel the irresistible need to escape into your own mind to avoid interaction?

Well, good thing an iPhone is never more than 10 inches away. That’s the most efficient piece of modern distraction ever mass produced.

It’s a sad statement that we choose to align ourselves with people whose company or input we don’t value. Loneliness is a powerful thing, but it’s not that powerful. Life’s too short. Hang with people who can paint a smile on your face.

Or, at least bring a Kindle and learn something.

***This is not a paid endorsement for the Kindle or any particular e-reader. However, if Amazon is listening, I am more than willing to discuss blog sponsorship!

It’s a New Year…Time to Find New Ways to Spew Ideas Into the Ether.

For all of you who have been eagerly anticipating my entrance into the blogging arena, your wait is finally over. If you’ve grown tired of poetry, song lyrics, book excerpts, or any other variety of Facebook/Twitter musings, this is for those who want the direct dope, shot from the hip, straight from the heart.

I’ve been walking around this planet for a little while, and my gears have been spun by a brain that won’t relax and hips that simply won’t lie. I’ve taken in the world and its many eccentricities, and I’ve kept a little mental log of all I’ve learned.

By no means is this process complete. If anything, it’s intensifying. I’m still awed, inspired, and dumbfounded by what I see. But, this blog will serve as a series of ruminations and  observations from someone who has been built to tackle life as a lone wolf.

I don’t mean to imply I’m a Hughesian recluse, shunning the outside world to live in a room filled with urine jars. But, even in company, there is an inherent sense of self-imposed space.

I doubt I am alone in these feelings, especially as we grow more and more detached, plugged into our social media machines, praying to the gods of attention and acceptance. As we fool ourselves into believing we are connected, we drift further apart. But, maybe a global power outage will have us all gathering around the campfire, telling stories about the good ol’ days of modems and  air conditioning. I would instantly wither and die, but good luck to the rest of you.

Until then, sit back and strap on your ear goggles. It’s 2014, and the singularity is near.

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