Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What do we do about President Trump?

The unthinkable happened. The American people voted for Donald Trump as the next president. The reasons for this are obvious: America is sick of what status quo Washington leadership has delivered. Depending on what happens next, how we react to a Trump presidency could  define this generation and change the world. 

Three or four things can happen now: 

1. Trump effectively delivers on his promises: Reducing immigration, making America safer by relying on law and order (intensifying police spending and border security), domesticating labor and manufacturing by somehow simultaneously reducing barriers to corporations but also heavily penalizing those who off-shore or who wish to import goods, reducing the tax burden, and replacing the Affordable Care Act with 'something really fantastic.'  He wins against ISIS and creates jobs. He makes America Great Again. 

Oh, and he builds that wall. 

2. Trump flails around like a wounded shark and shatters the American political status quo by being impulsive, vengeful, insubstantial, petty, and inept. It's a weird and economically bereft time, and has vast political repercussions, but we all more or less make it through. The underlying motivation that got Trump elected: dissatisfaction with the state of America, is addressed in coming generations. 

3. Trump continues to feed on hateful rhetoric and the scapegoating of the most marginalized populations in the nation and builds a powerful movement that can only be described as fascist. People who perpetuate this perspective will be supported by authority, passively or actively. 

4. Some kind of combination/spectrum of the above. 

I'm not predicting we end up toward #3 on the spectrum, but if that is what occurs, here are some ways we can prepare and counteract it. In the face of unprecedented (unPresidented?) hostility and oppression, we have to act. These are empowering reactions regardless of what happens next. 

It is of utmost importance that we constantly seek the truth. 

Discontentment is why Trump won, but how Trump won is by tapping into that discontentment by lying. Anyone identifying Trump's lies is disregarded by his supporters as a product of a biased media, but the words that come out of his mouth are a matter of public record, and they're not often factual by anyone's measure. Rigorously pursuing facts did not win in the face of Trump's presidential bid, but staying factual will be the only way we can preserver in the face of oppression in an informed, effective way and be on the right side of history when the dust settles. With the erosion of the 4th estate, this has never been harder, which is why clarity and investigation need to champion over propaganda on the left and the right.  But truth is demonstrable with evidence and lies are not, even in complex matters of politics. As change occurs, demand proof before siding with oppression and publicize truth that counters the claims of the oppressive party. 

Reach out and connect with communities that are vulnerable and let them know you will fight for their liberty. 

Go to mosques and commiserate with Muslims. Talk to the people you are acquainted with but who are outside your community and let them know you're there. Go to community events being organized right now to resist the outcomes of hateful rhetoric and action. Talk to people who are different from you and at risk. Depending on who you are and what you do, offer them your support and an open door in the event that they need you. And be ready to sacrifice your comfort, freedom, future and stability to prevent something atrocious from happening in your time. 

Use the tools that you have. 

You're an artist? Spread truth. You're a programmer? Create tools that allow people to effectively communicate. You're a nurse? Train others to take care of themselves. We all have roles to play, the skills we have professionally or in terms of interests can be applied to making the world a better and safer place in a thousand creative ways. 

Connect with your local power structure and try to ascertain where their line in the sand is. 

Will your local city council and mayor's office reject an order to profile citizens based on religion? Will your business licensor quit over a request to shut a business because its owners are immigrants? Find out, introduce yourself, and put pressure where you can on those in power to do the right thing. If you're within a power structure that can turned for the worse if American democracy falls apart, consider how to most effectively leverage that position. The men and women of our armed forces and police more than likely want to do the right thing, but will need allies and support to do so in the face of a changing political normal. 

We don't know how bad things can get, and hopefully scenario #3 is a nightmare that we over-prepared for. If that's the case, the last step is still the most important:


Organize for what you believe in and what you want to preserve. Organize to put pressure on leaders who will be watching the same changes you are. Organize to provide for those at risk. Organize to educate and prepare everyone to challenge what's to come and the problems we've been saddled with all along. Organize to connect with other people and initiatives talking the same goals. 

Whatever you do, do not be a spectator in your own moment. 

This is a wild time to be an American, but it is our time, and whether it's prosperous or apocalyptic we won't be a people who did nothing but watch youtube clips of a changing world. 

Choose truth and love over hate and division. 

See you out there.  

Read More......

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Get Out: The movie we all need

A trailer's been popping up in my feed recently, Jordan Peele's Get Out. Without sound, I assumed it was some FunnyOrDie send-up short about race relations. Like 'omg my white girlfriend doesn't use a washcloth in the shower, what terror' ala Dave Chapelle.

Turns out it's like a thousand times cooler than that.

This movie looks like the perfect cultural response to the racist madness we're grappling with today. It brings the banal terrors of racism that we're inundated with and makes them horrific, to apparently amazing effect.

By the look of the trailer, everything that is understated, insinuated, or denied in mainstream white culture is manifested in its final form here. White people are actually deleting black people from this community through some kind of hypnotic assimilation, and the fall-out is staged against cringe-worthy moments of white ineptitude performed by upper-class parental figures meeting their daughter's black boyfriend. Amazing.

I feel emotionally invested in this crazy movie to a degree that no horror about zombies or possessed children could ever achieve. As a white person, I'm excited to watch this movie for the moments that bring Daniel Kaluuya's character to life in the face of larger-than-life caricatures of white oppression. I want him to triumph over the stupidity as an avatar for every person of color who has to deal with the real-life equivalents of this madness every moment.

The true measure of how impactful this film is going to be is playing out right before our eyes in the comments section of the trailer on youtube. People who are excited about the movie because it reflects their experience or because they find it really clever like I do are waging full on battle with the racist trolls coming out of the woodwork. The fragile white fight is going on full steam! I hope it converts to box office sales.

+10,000xp to Jordan Peele for having this idea. Read More......

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Behind the scenes: Producing/Shooting at LAX

This commercial was a challenge to produce! I decided I'd jot down some notes for anyone shooting at a big airport in the future:

Filming at LAX: Airport security requires background checks for the entire crew, which means you have to be crewed up a week in advance. All gear has to pass through TSA, so we opted to go with Alexa Amiras. Shooting on tarmac comes with a $10m insurance requirement that has to be prepared 7 days in advance in order to obtain the FilmLA permit in time. LAX parking+security+traffic meant no production runs, so everything had to be on hand for the first shot. Background was uncontrolled (it's an airport) so we had to have a number of releases on hand. All in all this 60 second job required 31 insurance documents, permit requests, or applications.

We only had the marching band for a total of 4 hours between the two locations, UCLA and LAX, which required two units and a total of 6 cameras. 3 to cover the constant action in the airport, 1 to capture the marching band on the UCLA field, a timelapse camera, and a background shooter for media. The client wanted one set of footage that was basically a press-release on the event, and another set that was more cinematic, this cut.

Filming at UCLA: Drones aren't allowed on campus, so an overhead shot of a football field is a tricky one. UCLA was more than happy to allow us to use their 40' scissor lift, which was a huge boon.

Though all of our airport/campus contacts were very professional and helpful, I cannot imagine doing an airport shoot if it wasn't for an airport client like Delta (and UCLA on campus). With Delta we got: Access to special rooms to create a DIT base camp, entrance through Delta One, and the ability to coordinate plane arrivals with our crew, which made the whole approach shot possible.

All in all, a bunch of work for 60 seconds! Read More......

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Above their pay grade

The garbage bags were piling up in the forsaken part of downtown. It was really a shame. There were too many people lined up on the sidewalks at all hours to get in there and pick it all up, and you couldn’t drive a street sweeper over a pile of rags and boxes. Someone might be passed out in there. Or lying in wait, ready to ambush invisible assailants. The sanitation department’s official line was that their employees didn’t feel safe, what with all the drug dealing and general craziness down there. You could understand. Tile and concrete were smeared with all manner of bitter liquids and sticky mystery materials, the kind of thing you’d want to hurry by, not clean up.

It’s likely

Read More......

Friday, April 8, 2016

Remembering Paul Splett

Paul Splett

February 2016 marked the passing of Paul M. Splett. He is remembered by those who love him as the person who taught them to go after their dreams. He was a loving husband, father, son, brother, mentor and friend. He was both a heavy metal musician and a lawyer. A philosopher and a football fan. A lover and a sufferer. He refused to be limited by the hardships life threw at him, loving all things, pondering the questions of meaning, religion, and existence. After his second kidney transplant, Paul got out of bed and taught himself how to build a house, which became the beautiful home for him and the love of his life, Ronette Meyer. Paul's time on earth contained multitudes, but he left us too soon.

Paul was born May 23rd, 1961 to Gilbert and Carolyn Splett in Chewelah, Washington. He was the middle child between Kathryn and Tim. As children of a Lutheran pastor, they were often under the community’s microscope. So naturally, Paul got into metal music.

Read More......

Saturday, February 13, 2016

This site has been in hibernation as I've focused the Bicycle Collectives of Utah. The Bicycle Collective has always been a huge part of my life, and it has been a pleasure to lead the organization as it grows. If you want to learn more about what we do, I was invited to give a TEDx talk that is a pretty solid introduction:

Please keep in touch through the website above, or by checking out our daily posts on Instagram in Salt Lake, Ogden, and Provo.

Read More......

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What does it mean to live fully, to you?

That is the lifelong question. I want to know your answer, because it will speak volumes about who you are. I think it changes every day, and every year, depending on what we know, and what is lacking in our lives.

In this particular context I was thinking about the struggle of the writer: do you spend your time observing and fashioning descriptions of life, or are you fully in the moment, present, living it? Do I throw myself into love; consequences, time constraints, and emotional vulnerabilities be damned? Or do I keep myself withdrawn and give myself the discipline and structure it takes to be a better artist? Can I do both?

But living fully for me in general means a few things right now:

Being loved, and loving. Improving the world using my skills, thoughts, and energy. Exploring the world in its multifaceted and dangerous splendor. Eating great food. Pushing myself, and getting stronger. Illuminating the darkness for those more fragile. Bearing witness to the end of days. Going down all roads in search of truths. Being uncompromising about truth, when I can see it, and thoughtful about it when I can't.

I am typically of one of two minds. For entertainment purposes, let's paint them in their extremes.

I either wake up in action, uncoiling like a spring, with a gasp, and I move. I want to boldly and uncompromisingly assess challenges and take them on, honing my mind into acuity in response to the twists and turns life throws me. I am strong, and virile, and laughing the triumphant laugh of a joyful and wrathful god, many headed. I want to dance and sing with the glory of living. I do not want to crush my enemies because I have no enemies, I only have challenges that make me stronger. Everything improves in my presence because I love everything and I am alive.

In this mindset, my purpose on this planet is to use my mind, my body, my charisma, and my determination to improve the world. This is the version of myself that wants to run the Bicycle Collective, that wants to write a best-selling young adult novel that shows kids to confront their fears and insecurities with joy and love for their allies. The version of me that smiles when talking to a homeless person because I have the capacity to love them and in that love is salvation for both of us.

Or I wake up slow. I want nothing better than to find refuge from the world, in someone's arms, in food, in distraction. By running away. I acknowledge the frailty of the world and my own frailty within it. At these times I feel things like thunderbolts, and the calamity of the human condition leaves me a cold vessel. My eyes no longer crackle, they become repositories of dread and sadness.

Here, I am meant to be a measure of what is real. I am meant to feel what can be felt, and decipher it into poetry. The hurt can hurt me, but I am protected from it in my role as a recorder. I loathe the damage that the teenager receives just by being surrounded by other broken people. The homeless person terrifies me because I might soon become them. And the sky's darkness is the harbinger of the future.

The compassion of the quiet me and the radiance of the bold me can serve two purposes.

They can be poured into another person, who absorbs them, learns from them, nurtures them, is emboldened by them, or maybe even is broken by them.

Or they can be poured into text like charged ions into batteries. Wrapped up into complicated emotional talismans to tell the human story, and hopefully, save the world.

Ideally they serve a combination of the two. Which is where I figure my shit out.

For you?

Read More......

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Letter to a friend: Embrace constant change

I love seeing this message. It's so hard to feel what you feel, to feel in the wrong place, in the wrong time, and I don't really have any answers for you. But I do have some thoughts.

One of the hardest and most rarified moments that I return to in my life occurred shortly after I was a freshman in college. I had just had a big goodbye dinner, spontaneously organized with about 15 of my freshmen friends from University. C_ was there, A_ was there, 3 dancer girls that I'd become crazy close, R_ and M_ and a few other people that made me happy but weren't terribly important. We broke into the Post theater and danced up on the stage after making a great pot-luck, I think I cooked for people a bit.

I was recalling this night, and the culmination of new relationships that it signified, as I boarded a plane to Cairo. I was planning on leaving everything I knew for a year, and up until that moment I felt fine about that. But as I looked at the neutral grey surreality that you always see at through airport windows, I felt my life was finite for the first time. I realized that the three dancer girls, who'd become incredibly important to me over the past year, would probably drift away. Not only was that shocking, but I realized that I'd probably never meet people just like them again, realizing in theory the difference between college friendships forged on exploration and the cooler networkings we create down the road. I stopped short in the terminal, looking out the window, almost crying. "Why am I running from that?" I wondered. "Why am I throwing that away?"

 I don't have a good answer to those two questions. The older we get, the more true the metaphor of a life with many doors becomes: Each opening reveals a thousand new portals and simultaneously closes off a thousand others. Those closed doors will always haunt you. But I do have a counter-story.

Later, on the same trip, I was in Siwa, a desert oasis on the Libyan border, a town made of sand built in 900AD, since which time it had rained precisely twice. The first rainstorm had cracked a foundation here and there, but life went on until the late 1800's when a second rainstorm rendered the impossibly ancient structures uninhabitable. At this point, two months into my trip, I'd seen and done a thousand things that I couldn't begin to articulate to myself. I could only feel that I had finally seen firsthand many of the huge nameless truths of the world that can only be experienced in the open-eyed passage between 1st and 3rd world, seeing the beauty and terror of both. I sat atop of the crumbling sandscape, alone, and bawled my eyes out.

My point, I think, is that I couldn't have learned that without letting go of my friends. Some of them, like A_ and C_, are still huge presences in my life, and I'm thankful for it. Some of them are not. The question you have to ask yourself is: When you look back on your life, and your decisions, are you glad you're not still the person you were in C_ with S_ and M_ and J_? Has the cumulative You, with those experiences and your later ones, grown to be enriching and satisfying in a variety of ways? There will always be loss, and always gain. Sometimes what we want most excludes what we also want.

I think you're right in being worried about your current place in life, and yearning for more. You can up and switch to living in a Cob-house, and I think you'd have an amazing time. But you'd lose things to do that. Maybe it makes sense to leave Seattle and move to Rio Mesa, but I'll remind you that none of the people you miss in this email are in Rio Mesa. You'd start from scratch there too, and maybe it's worth it. Leaving now would be different than leaving in 2 years, because a good life is never still, wherever it is. But it'd be worth it, either way.

The other thing about those people you love (and D_'s devotion to his friends reminds me of this): They won't hang around for you, either. As the things in their lives come up they'll move where they need to be, and you should too, rejoicing in the times that you have back together, and the chance occurrences that bring you to the same places.

I'm reminded of another platitude: "Change the things I cannot abide, abide the things I cannot change."

We're so lucky. So impossibly goddamn lucking it's impossible to overstate. Do you realize how much we can change? You and I live in a society (with —so— many other problems, lest we forget) where we can live in New York or a farm and kiss many people or one and be one gender or another and espouse any outlook and follow it to it's logical conclusion, and we live with the resources and lack of restraints that make any one of those options possible. Other people, in this place, in other places, have far fewer things at their option to change, and thus must abide. But they may be happier, because the choice is forced, and they don't have as large of a graveyard of closed doors behind them. They were never there to begin with.

So go on through, changing the things you can't abide and abiding the things you can't change. It's hard, and the things we exclude will hurt, but it's worth it.

Love you.
Read More......

Friday, June 7, 2013

Writing Excerpt: The consequence of caring

From a letter to a friend:

I've always noticed your lack of attachment to things. It seemed, while you were younger, that you would bounce from identity to identity, skill set to skill set, person to person, place to place, exploring, and then moving on. It's a normal part of youth, but it worried me, somewhat. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I've always been too attached, to monogamous, too sensitive.

Anyway, I think part of the grief and terror that you were expressing this morning comes out of the change that happens as you get attached. Feeling something is an investment, and investments can mean a weight and an urgency and a shackle. But I contend that in order to truly feel, in order to truly love, in order for life to have meaning, you have to have that investment. It's a worthwhile trade, even if means that when things don't go according to plan, you hurt.

It makes me proud of you, even as getting older tries us both. Read More......

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Square is funded! And campaign photochop recap

I spent most of the last month staring at TweetDeck. As part of the outreach campaign for The Square, I tried my best to stay abreast of news from Cairo and keep the cheerleading and pandering that is a necessary part of any Kickstarter campaign tempered with meaningful updates from the revolutionaries on the ground. I'm so happy this campaign has succeeded, and moving forward I'll continue in my goal to bridge promoting a story with the causes that it depicts. I particularly like this paragraph, from one of our outreach drafts:

"More than money, we feel we've been introduced or reconnected with a global community of people who want to fight for a better world. We're so grateful that you're with us. We want to use this time, while we're connected, to fill the air with inspiring stories, stories that push your movements forward, stories that bring our movements together."

Now I wanted to share with you some of the more fun images that I created in this digital blitzkrieg. I'm no designer, so these assignments were even more fun of a challenge as a result.
My favorite image has to be this Egyptian nationalist remix of Delacroix:

We busted this out really quick for the french Facebook page, it probably got the least exposure of any image, which is probably why I love it. It doesn't make any damn sense.

Khalid Abdalla's quoteplate was another favorite, filled with excerpts from his "Testimony," a long and wise letter about the revolution. You can read the full, passionate, brilliant text here.

There were whimsical images that underline the international and technological spirit of this project. Here Producer Avram Ludwig holds a computer Skyping in our Egyptian Director and Producer to a New York loft with a random Murikami painting in the background.

I used to hate facebook's cover photos option, but have embraced it as a interesting visual tool to change campaign headlines and keep things visually up to date.

Finally, the Stencil. Based on the street art of Keizer in Cairo, I mocked it up in 10 minutes before a flight, for better or for worse, and sent it to our printer. It's become the sticker, t-shirt logo, and viral stencil we circulated to spread solidarity for the egyptian revolution. Who knew!

Read More......

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Operation Anti Sexual Harassment/Assault and the murky way of the masses

This chilling video has been blowing up on youtube the last few days. If you don't speak Arabic, to experience it properly you'll need to turn on the English subtitles, and watch it in full quality.

A calm, aerial camera follows an atrocity in the midst of a chaotic crowd, a nighttime riot in Cairo. We are informed that one woman, in a knot of dozens of men, is being sexually assaulted. It is impossible to ascertain this from the video alone*, but the reactions of the men around her certainly support this conclusion. The chilling thing is that while the many of the dozens of men around her don't support this violence, the violence still takes place. In public. With thousands of people around. Gang-raping a woman has nothing to do with the goals of a people's struggle, yet it happened.

In times where rule of law breaks down, traditional power dynamics are scrapped. This moment has great revolutionary potential. The unfortunate reality is that other power inequalities emerge. If the people protesting, collectively, are not able to protect the people who are made vulnerable by those power inequalities, then they lose valuable support of those disenfranchised, and the atrocity itself stands to undermine their movement.

In Egypt, groups like OpAntiSH, and individuals like Aida El Kashef (featured in The Square!) are fighting against this violence, both because it is unacceptable and because it undermines the people's struggle. Support them, and if you're elsewhere, emulate them.

*It can be assumed that OpAntiSH did their homework and followed up with this woman and closer witnesses after the video was shot. If that is not the case, I apologize for misinformation. Read More......

Monday, February 4, 2013

Methods & Madness x Caroll Taveras from Dada Factory on Vimeo.

Before heading to Sundance last month I wrapped up a neat little video with Tessa Liebman and Caroll Taveras. Tessa's a versatile chef who collaborates with various artists to make events celebrating and expanding upon their work. Dark was the night, pretty were the guests, indulgent was the menu. Fun stuff! Read More......