“Design is change without risk.”
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In response to David Brooks’s pathetic column “Moderate Mitt Returns!” I wrote:
David Brooks’s column [“Moderate Mitt Returns,” October 4, 2012] taking Mitt Romney’s debate comments at face value is either dangerously naïve or disgustingly disingenuous. When Romney didn’t think anyone but his rich friends were listening, he showed his true colors. He does not plan to work for the interests of the American people as a whole; therefore, he is unworthy of being elected President. Anyone who lies as obviously, audaciously, and frequently as he does should never be entrusted with that much power and access.
Jason L. Gohlke
For the Times’s sake, I’m really hoping I just didn’t get the joke and the whole thing was one big winking joke soaked with sarcasm, like a nice moist piece of tiramisu. I don’t think that’s the case here, unfortunately.
As I’ve said here a zillion times, I hate politics. Right now, though, it seemed like a good idea to dash off a note, if only to get it on the record. Mitt Romney is too dangerous, and President Obama is just good enough, that I am horrified at the prospect of Mitt Romney actually winning.
That said, I had absolutely no fear that Romney could actually win this thing — after all, John Kerry lost because he got tagged as a flip-flopper, and Romney is 100 times worse, and a bunch of other reasons — until reading David Brooks’s steaming pile of electrons.
Established news organizations are so desperate for eyeballs that they (a) will do anything to keep the horserace close, since that keeps them relevant and (b) sensationalize as much as possible to get as much attention as possible. There’s also the big problem of liars being given the benefit of the doubt. In the gradual shift of news departments’ focus from investigation to entertainment, truthiness is as good as truth. And I don’t think the majority of the public — and worse, the journalists — can really tell the difference (or care to do so). The irony is that the entertainers (Colbert, Stewart, The Onion) are the ones telling the truth now, through satire and parody.
To be clear, my fondest political hope (which seems incredibly unrealistic) is for the Republican party to dissolve in internecine conflict after losing this election, for the majority of the “mainstream” Republicans to flood the Democratic party (moving it really not that much farther right than it already is), and then for the progressives to bolt the Democrats and create a viable third party with a kind of progressive/libertarian flavor that captures everyone’s imagination and ultimately gives real power to people fighting the corporations. That might not happen in my lifetime, but it’s a happier prospect than some massive catastrophe that requires us all to learn survival skills and start over*… or a continuation of the slow decline of the middle class that results in something very close to feudalism.
You can see why I kept my letter to the Times short.
* (in my initial draft, I wrote “take over,” which couldn’t possibly be a Freudian slip or anything)
If you didn’t see this on February 25th, you really missed out:
Hilarious, no? An iPhone, a brilliant girlfriend with a great sense of humor, and a whole lot of serendipity are the needed ingredients.
Also, if you haven’t heard, I am moving to San Francisco in June! Dawn and I found a great apartment together in her existing building and we are incredibly excited about it.
This list of vague but big ideas that a particular venture capitalist would like to fund is almost four years old. Though a certain number of the problems have been solved in the interim to some extent, a great many of them are still pending.
I guess the common thread is to figure out what people want and then figure out a way to give it to them, easier and cheaper than someone else can…. or find some way to make some intermediate step easier.
I’m at a point where I want to start using my brains to innovate something new, rather than solve some variation of the same five trivial problems over and over again, which is basically what I’ve been doing for the last nine years.
* * *
Oh, also, happy new year — this is my first blog entry in 2012, as January already nears an end! 2011 was my best year in a long, long time, filled with positive changes, and 2012 is going to be even better. A little over a week ago I celebrated six months with Dawn and I’m looking forward to many, many more. Sometime this year, maybe sooner rather than later, I’ll be living in San Francisco. Woo hoo!
Here is one thing I almost forgot (oh, how quickly we forget!): To improve your life, you have to take risks.
The most important change in my life to date — meeting and falling in love with Dawn — didn’t just happen. The timing was fortuitous, sure, but it happened through an intricate series of intentional acts on my part and hers.
Generally speaking, when we did those things, it involved taking risks. For me, those risks started probably when I moved to Minnesota in 1999, setting off a crazy chain reaction that resulted in three rough years out in the cold, followed by seven very difficult years in the Bay Area and two increasingly wonderful ones. (Happily, the wonderful ones were 2010 and 2011.) Another risk was going into therapy and working hard to discover what I really feared and hated about life and about myself. Another was to put up a profile on OKCupid.com that was truly honest and revealing. I was finally able to do that in a way that was actually attractive, because I finally liked myself and felt worthy of receiving love. There was still an inherent risk of rejection: if someone didn’t like my honest, detailed, silly profile, they wouldn’t like me either. (Of course, the reverse is also true: If someone liked my profile, they’d also probably like me. I was pretty sure of that, anyway.)
Similarly, in contacting me, Dawn risked rejection, or the possibility of disappointment at meeting yet another inauthentic dude on OKCupid. In return for each of us taking those risks (and many others), we have begun to build an epic love that is made to last. (I am thankful every day for it because I am well aware that not everyone gets to have this.)
Taking risks requires you to accept the possibility of losing something you already have. Ideally, that thing you lose is something you don’t want anyway (the parasite crashing on your couch, the soul-sucking job, the girl who doesn’t really love you but you keep answering her calls anyway because you’re lonely, the feeling of worthlessness, etc.). But even that is hard, because the fear of the unknown frequently trumps the potential gain of making a change.
One thing that makes it hard to take risks is giving a fuck. Stopping giving a fuck — about the things that don’t matter — probably has its disadvantages, but it’s the only real path to making meaningful change in your life.
It’s been a struggle for me for years to not give a fuck. During and after high school, I allowed my teen-aged perception of what society thinks is important to shape my choices, instead of just doing what I wanted to do. That put me in a very different place than where I might have been.
That’s not to say that I would trade any of it. Two short years ago, I was at my worst. At this time of year in 2009 I couldn’t see anything but what was right in front of me and a whole hell of a lot of pain and fear. But now, going into 2012, I have a wonderful woman at my side (I’m pretty sure she’s the person I’ve always wanted to be with but was too afraid to look for), and a world that has opened up again with limitless potential.
Stuff that is sort of but not entirely related:
Upon reflection, I find it wonderful that a movement of people is growing around the concept that the rich don’t pay their fair share (they don’t) and that corporations have too much power (they do). The Occupy Wall Street movement in some ways is exactly what I think is necessary.
From my perspective, though, here’s the sad thing about today’s “general strike” in Oakland: I have over 150 hours of vacation time, over 100 hours of sick time, and a floating holiday available to me. And I agree with the reasons Occupy Oakland is doing it. However, I don’t feel comfortable taking a day off in what is invariably the busiest month of my job.
This is my dilemma with the Occupy movement right now: The vast majority of the 99%, like me, are living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t feel comfortable taking the day off — much less spending weeks protesting in Frank Ogawa Plaza. And there are many people in far worse situations than I who are going to be displaced today here in Oakland.
It’s not as if I’m sitting on the sidelines. The reason I’m going to work today is that I want to help ensure the California Environmental Scorecard is produced on time, containing as few errors as humanly possible. The Scorecard helps keep California legislators accountable to the public for their votes on environmental bills.
I’m not a fan of politics, especially as it’s practiced in this country right now. One day is not going to jeopardize my job, nor is it likely to significantly delay the Scorecard. But considering everything I have to do for basically the right reasons this month, I can’t afford to take a day off to occupy my own city.
I’ve decided to end my run of seven years of involvement in the Brainwash Movie Festival, effective immediately.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done to improve, enhance, and run the festival for all of these years. However, it’s now time for me to follow other pursuits.
I started helping Dave out in 2004 with one very simple goal: to add a couple of pieces to my print design portfolio (a flier and a program). Somehow that grew into maintaining and redesigning the website, as another portfolio piece, and a way to help out a friend. Then, we lost a couple judges, so I started helping judge the movies. And every year I did more to promote and run the thing. At that point, a couple years ago, I reasoned that I was so involved that I might as well get some kind of minimal material benefit (a tax break, and it ain’t much) from participating in the festival, which led to my having become a partner in the business. As I remember it, it was after a whole year of Dave pressuring me to become a partner that I gave in and committed myself to the festival (committed as in “asylum,” not as in “marriage”).
I have to admit that during that act I was ambivalent and had a fair amount of trepidation. I knew that Dave wanted to ultimately develop a fictitious, episodic tv series (now webisode series) about the film festival, and make money by doing so. I just wasn’t convinced that I could really help pull it off, nor did I particularly want to. For some reason, though, I went along with the idea and therefore spent many grueling, frequently middle-of-the-night hours in 2010 working on the series.
It wasn’t all bad. We had meetings, wrote story ideas, figured out which shots we wanted, and spent hours putting some stuff on video. (We also had nights that lasted until dawn, and grueling physical labor, and arguments, and tedium.) What ultimately came out of 2010’s effort was a mostly incomprehensible 23-minute curiosity (of which only 4 or 5 minutes ended up being our own footage — the rest consisted of a couple of the best movies from 2010’s festival). The few that watched it reportedly said that it accurately captured the feel of the drive-in festival. However, apparently none of them understood the underlying plotline, which (of course) was that aliens on a distant planet who survived by consuming stimulating intellectual content intercepted from other planets were literally being bored to death due to a lack of such content — and that Hollywood was aware of this and was keeping the quality of their movies deliberately low in order to (I guess) commit genocide. Therefore, one intrepid alien sent his hench… alien… to earth to harvest independent film content so that their race could survive.
Silly? Yes. Clever? Yeah, I’d say so. Doable? Absolutely not, 100% no way. Not with the team we have (or, rather, had). But we actually created something, which was something. And now, I move on. No hard feelings — it’s just time for a new chapter in my life. In the meantime, check out Brainwash when it comes around again!
(Published more than three years after writing it — I guess it’s no longer “too soon.”)