Monday, July 04, 2016

I am a Patriot (Sorry Not Sorry)

It's the Fourth of July. It's an important day for me.
So is Memorial Day. And Veteran's Day. And Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. And Patriot Day.
And so are a bunch of other related holidays, and the other 360 days not in the above list.
Because I love my country.
That's not in vogue. Hell, it's not even popular. Honestly, it's actively discouraged in today's world.
And that is broken.
I'm proud to be an American.
I can't take credit for it – It's not like I got to choose my parents or where or when I was born or on what soil or when in the timeline, or any of the things that made me an American.
But I can do something with it.
For me, patriotism is a responsibility. It's a set of attitudes and actions that live out the ideals of everything that make my country great. (I do claim it. I don't minimize or disavow it.)
The ideals. The "what it should be."
Not jingoism. Not fascism. Not a host of other labels people will use to intentionally devalue and deconstruct and destroy something that could make the world better.
It's not, "I'm OK, you're OK, so we're all OK."
As we traipse along in our little isolationist bubbles of selfishness, corporate betterment be damned.
No, it's, "I'm not OK. You're not OK. And that's OK."
Not not in a "let's settle and wallow in our broken bubbles of selfishness, because – hey – everyone's broken."
And it's not embracing the worldwide in vogue societal lie that each of us are even independent islands of awesome that are entitled to do what we want (bigger values and norms be damned).
We are are a social, deeply dependent species that is better when we come together to live for ideals and overcome our individual brokenness to make something bigger and better and healthier than we can by ourselves.
Patriotism is a very important avenue for that.
That's not to say we don't occasionally come together; we do. Often at times of horrible tragedy.
Columbine and Sandy Hook. 9/11 and Orlando.
Things I think about and have a tightening in my chest and a helpless sorrow and physical desire to huddle in my home holding my family for eternity.
But amazing things happen in those times of tragedy.
And so do amazingly fractured, broken things, as people line up in solidarity across dividing lines that often become more about marginalizing opposition (the horrific irony), rather than doing everything we can to stave off the encroaching downward darkness spiral with those pools of light of acts of service and sacrifice that are those good islands of hope to which we so desperately cling.
But thank God those things do happen.
In the wake of giant tragedy, as I try to go through what I can find out about each of the victims, and directly and splash damage impacted people, in what could be a horrifically sink-hole of sadness, there are these brilliant, stabbingly bright lights of heroism, some big, and so many non-spotlighted and never making it above the fold.
It's not like living ideals – any ideals – is easy.
To be ramble-y for moment, the only good example of any of this is me, because that's the sample set of one with which I am 100% aware. (Ish.)
And I'm one uneven, inconsistent, perpetually emotionally 14-year-old example. I'm snarky and passionate and high-handed and inappropriate and rallying and divisive and loyal and turncoat and loving and selfish so much more.
(Which any of you who follow my too-involved online presencie have a vague sense of – and be thankful you don't have the additional insight of living in my skull.)
But even if I don't have it all figured out, I do have the awareness – or sometimes just a sense – of ideals that might lift me and people around me up. If even a little bit.
Patriotism gives a container for a decent chunk of ideals.
Sure, the history is messy and there are so many dark milestones on the way that I can't whitewash or grotesquely minimize with a version of, "Hey, that wasn't me that did that."
But I'm talking about the ideals. The "if I I figure out some version of living out this one thing, the world is a better place. And if I can also live out some version of this other one that I think will make the world better place. Oh, and this one...."
And owning it. Owning those ideals are wrapped in a country-specific wrapper that isn't that country-specific, because these are borne from desperate desire to hold onto human values, irrespective of country borders.
And not being milktoast about. It's digging in my heels and saying, "No! This, this Value – This matters.
This is worth doing the hard work and fighting for."
Living this:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Living this:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
****ing living this:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries sheWith silent lips. 'Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"
Happy Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day.
Whether you live in that country's borders or not.
God Bless America.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"The Encouragement Clown" (A Milkshake Boom Production)

This weekend, I unexpectedly got to be part of something pretty great, as I took on a last-minute lead role in a project with a solid group of Austin creatives.

"The Encouragement Clown" is an upcoming short film from The Milkshake Boom crew, HQed in Austin, Texas.

Writer / Director Robert James Haynes ("The Spell Book") and DP Christine Carstairs ("Drastic Measures"), are an amazing creative duo, and I get the sense really talented folks gravitate toward them.

Actors Dan RepJose V. Rivera, and Robin Kauffman (who pulled double duty with makeup), Boom Operator Dylan Santurri, Sound Technician and Grip Scott Osborn, and 2nd AD Lindsay Young helped build a fun, low-pressure, high-energy, single-day shoot.

It was humbling to be included by such a great group of creatives, I'm looking forward to the film showing well (I generally don't watch myself, so y'all will have to tell me how it is), and you can get some behind-the-scenes photos from Christine here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


 Today could be looked at as a bit of a rough day.

Multiple kicks to the teeth. Usually getting some lip, too.


  1. Let's face it: Everything is gravy.

    All. Of. The. Everythings.


  2. I got one of those unlooked-for, unexpected, beautiful moments validating what I do has meaning and makes some things better.

    Not All of the Everythings. But some of the every things.

    (And, honestly, I don't do it for that. So it's extra nice when unexpected validation stops by to say "hi" and hug my fuzzy insides.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What it means to be smart

I know a lot of super intelligent people who are idiots.

Heck, I act like an idiot a lot of the time.

Smart -- really smart -- is an aggregate of a bunch of things:

  • Intelligence -- Aptitude to get knowledge
  • Knowledge -- To simplify, let's just say it's information
  • Wisdom -- Doing something appropriate with knowledge
  • Action -- Acting on wisdom
It  takes all of this to be "smart" -- The aptitude to get tons of information, the tons of information, the wherewithal to know when/not (and how/not) to use that information, and the compulsion do something with that great power and responsibility.

I know hyper-intelligent people who are lazy. They are not smart.

I know people with tons of information who use it in useless ways, or in abusive ways, or are just generally an ass about what they think they know. They are not smart.

I know people who have the ability to change their world at a micro or macro level, but don't have the compulsion to do anything. At all. They are not smart.

And I'm not just talking about pervasive character flaws -- I'm talking about what people like me do, off and on, throughout our lives. Heck -- throughout my day.

And then there's a flaw we all have, where we think we're smarter than we really are.

Sure, intellectually, I know there's a bunch of someones out there that are smarter than me. But if that doesn't live with me, it's just intellectual knowledge that doesn't lead to personal growth.

And I'm talking about acknowledging there are smarter people in a healthy way, not in a "I'm not worth anything", false negative sense of my worth.

I surround myself with peers and mentors that I meet with on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. We encourage and lift each other up and hold each other accountable -- which means calling each other out if we're acting arrogant, thinking too much of our gifts and talents, or otherwise behaving selfishly. Often times, that's about how smart we're being (or a false sense of intelligence, or an elitism, or a host of other character flaws or symptoms that indicate being out of whack with the reality of what it means to be smart, and to get smarter.

Here's a bit of litmus test I have (one of them; I have several) -- Do I find myself using the phrase, "Those people" in categorizing a group?

I don't mean just with race -- I mean with differing religious or political views, or people without domain expertise, or with people who say something that could be classified as "dumb" because they haven't had the exposure to the knowledge before.

(And while I could arguably add a fifth ingredient to "smart" -- "Opportunity" -- I'd argue there is so much information exposed to us wherever we are that we can't reach saturation. Again. Arguably.)

With myself and other "smart" people, I've heard versions of the phrase "those people" used. Not Smart.

When I look at the twelve smartest people I know, they're not just smart in aggregate -- They higher in Intelligence, AND Knowledge, AND Wisdom, AND Action. And eight of those twelve don't even have higher education degrees.

(And no, I don't come close to cracking the Smart Twelve.)

Oh, and so I don't forget -- Making sure I don't over value my smarts and/or don't giving people enough grace with theirs doesn't mean I'm a milktoast, and doesn't mean I don't call people out on their dumb crap.

But it means if I do, I better have cleaned up my house, too.

One of my favorite managers in the world used to try to get people to see what they needed to see to do their jobs, get on board with change that was going to happen regardless, and so on.

And if they didn't get there -- with spoonfuls of patient help -- he might ... lose it a bit.

"Do you want me to get some crayons and draw a ****ing map for you?"

He wasn't deriding intelligence, and he wasn't belittling the person -- But he was saying, "You should have been able to get there, and I helped you -- a lot -- and you're still not there. You better get there."

(Fortunately, I never had that phrase used on me. Though I probably deserved to have.)

(Dr. Doom and Data provided by Marvel. © 2014 Marvel)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Celebrating Papa Day

Today is special.

Today is "Papa Day".

Five years ago today, my dad-in-law -- a neat, fun inspiring man -- left this life. It sucked.


I remember him. Often.

And not just the last few weeks and months of his life -- those whirlwind, visceral memories of surprise phone calls and rushed road trips, of moves and the funeral and packing and selling that sometime threaten to take over all of the other memories.

I remember how Dad laughed, how easy-going he was, how patient he was in the middle of inconvenience, discomfort, and pain (we all found out after the fact that he was playing on the floor with the kids "with a horribly sore back" -- that it turned out was actually his spine cracked from the growth of a tumor).

I remember his sense of humor, the self-deprecating-but-not-insecure fun he had at his own expense.

I remember his generosity. That man would tip a waitress in need more than the cost of the meal. And not look back.

Later the day that dad passed, my then-seven-year-old daughter asked if we could remember the day, and celebrate it as "Poppa Day", with all of those good memories.

I promised her I would. And we do.

Tonight was about listening to fifties sock-hop music (could have been polka or Pavarotti, too), dancing around the open-windowed house like goofballs (because it doesn't matter what we look like or what people think of us), and eating horrible sugary baked treats like those he would buy the kids when he visited us.


Why do all of this stuff that could be called self-medicating, or superficial, or no longer needed?

Kind of like baskets and candy and trinkets at Easter or Christmas, this fun, light-hearted break from routine -- revolving around something more important -- gives all of us a chance to step back, laugh, tear up, be reflective, be goofy, and focus on an example and a legacy that's lasting and outside of ourselves.

At one point tonight, my youngest daughter (a toddler when we lost Dad) stopped eating her white-emblazoned chocolate cupcake, and just stared into space.

Thinking the sugar had won, I asked her what she was thinking about.

"I know Papa was a very good man," she said. And went back to eating her cupcake.

That's why we do Papa Day.