Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Generation

My Generation

It was said to me by an elderly woman
“You’re generation with your phones and internet,
Your attention spans are too short.”

I wanted to tell her: “You are wrong!
I’m not one of those kids,
I’m not from my generation.
I watched the old movies like Citizen Kane and Casablanca
I know who Bogart is,
I studied your generation and I appreciate it.”

Seeing as I was born into this generation not by choice,
But rather a summation of randomly organized events,
It seemed unfair to be judged by an elder about
“My Generation” and our “Short Attention Spans.”

But you see that’s the thing about prejudice,
No one cares about your backstory.

And so I thought to myself:
“Is my generation so bad?
Why do people hate us so much?
Is it us or is it the change we represent?
Because really, human nature hasn’t changed,
Just our technology has.”

Have you heard of the encyclopedia?
It was the Wikipedia of its day
(and ours is better because ours is fact checked)

Have you heard of Playboy?
Yeah people used to pay for porn.

Have you heard of the television?
Yeah we took than and improved it.
Now we can pick what we watch and when we watch it.

Have you heard of Parasols and Fans?
They were the iPod cases of the Victorian era.

Have you heard of Vaudville?
It was the YouTube of its day.

You see I think its jealousy.
I think that’s why older people don’t like us “young people”.
They are jealous at how connected we are,
At how borderless our world is now.
And they are jealous because
they are living in a different world
Where maps have lines,
And people never change.

So I wear my generation proudly now
With our  digital narcissism and intellectual immaturity.

Yes: we have short attention spans.
Yes: we display our lives publicly.
Yes: we  play lots of video games.
Yes: we like to voice our opinion.

I don’t see it as a “Short Attention Span”
But rather a face paced yearning for meaning.
A yearning for substance.
A yearning for communication and global connectivity.

So stop telling me what’s wrong with our generation,
Because all we did was take what you gave us,
And tried to make it better.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tread Softly

This past week has been a really shitty week. It’s made me realize that I’m a 21st century fuck up. Now let me explain:

Perhaps it was because I was born first, maybe it was because of my shitty time in high school and middle school. Regardless, I have found that if I am not perfect I hate myself for it.  If I don’t get 1st place, do the best, be liked by everyone, I hate myself.

Being perfect isn’t easy these days either because, with a quick Google search, you can find out the person who is best in their field. Best Hot Dog Eater: Joey Chestnut, Best Pok√©mon Video Game Player: Ray Rizzo, Best Director: John Ford, Best Juggler: Doug Sayers, Best Writer, Shakespeare, Best Farter, Big Frank Mayhew (Yes, it exists).

During the tumultuous times that were my childhood, I often sought solace in the comfort of computers, video games, and movies. I surfed the calm accepting waters of the internet and found, ironically, that it was a safe place for me. There was acceptance in anonymity and I could accomplish things by skill alone and didn’t have to be social. It was rewarding to accomplish something on the net like run a fully functional Ebay account buying broken PlayStations, fixing them, and selling them for a profit at age 14 with only an email address and no credit card. Beating video games made me feel good about myself because it meant I accomplished something. Movies were, and still are, a great escape because I can just throw myself in and forget my life for a few hours. So whenever times get hard for me I retreat to the internet or video games or moves to help me get through whatever weirdness is happening in my life.

Something I have learned in my time on the web is that, believe it or not, the internet has rules. It’s an ever-growing and expanding list of rules, but there are 47 that originated on the popular bulletin board site 4chan that are considered to be THE rules. The Commandments of the internet, if you will. For my more conservative readers, forgive the citation of this upcoming rule, but I promise I’m making a point. Internet Rule 34 states that: “If it exists, there is a porn of it.” Which, for better or for worse, is pretty much entirely accurate.

I have found for myself is very similar to this rule: Joey’s Rule 34a: If it exists, someone is better than you at it.

As a perfectionist, this is maddening.

One of my favorite books of all time is East of Eden by John Steinbeck . It is a huge sweeping book covering the lives of two families in Salinas Valley, California, and means to be an analogy for the “Eden” story in the bible. Without giving too much away, there are 2 brothers who are meant to represent Cain and Able (that pretty much gave everything away). It’s fascinating what Steinbeck does with these characters, but in the end the older brother drives himself insane in trying to be perfect, and that has always haunted me. I feel that I have to be perfect. If  I make a mistake, I’m done. If I am not number one, nothing I did was meaningful. As I think these words and type these sentences I hear how absurd they sound but I still believe them to be true.

In a culture that is obsessed with rewarding mediocrity, it’s easy to be lulled into a sense of self-confidence. I mean I understand giving kid’s confidence in themselves, and I am not pretending to know how to be an educator, but I do know this: Because of the “reward” system that I was taught with in my schooling, I do not think I have done a good job unless I am rewarded. Say what you will about the pros and cons of the system, but the fact is that I don’t feel good about anything I do unless I am rewarded for it, and for me that messes with my head because I get depressed and feel worthless if someone doesn't tell me good job or if I make a mistake.. When in reality, making mistakes is ok.

I type it and yet I still don’t believe it.

For a long time I thought I had to please others because pleasing others would make me worth something in their eyes. I wasn’t sure of what my image was or what I wanted to be, so I tried to be something I thought people wanted me to be, because if everyone was happy, no one would hate me and I could be perfect. But I’m finding that living for others just makes me unhappy with myself because then I’m not true to my ideals and I’m giving my mind, my most precious asset, to someone else.

I moved to New York to find work but also to find myself, and I am. It’s a great city to do it in too because I am being tested in so many ways. I welcome it because it’s making me a confident person. I am more comfortable with myself, positives and negatives. And I am more ready to face my faults and make myself a better person. So here, for all to see, I am listing what I consider to be my  greatest faults, in no particular order, so I can better face them:

Number One: I am socially awkward and shy.
Number Two: I’m a mediocre director.
Number Three: I’m not that great at running my production company.
Number Four: I put others needs before my own.
Number Five: I have virtually no love life because I push people away when they get close.
Number Six: I don’t work very hard once I get comfortable
Number Seven: I don’t listen well… at all.
Number Eight: I have major trust issues.

I was talking with friends last night and someone I met named Jesse gave forth this brilliant nugget of advice: “As soon as you accept what makes you sexy, other people will see it. But until you see yourself as sexy, people won’t either.” It’s very Confucian in its wisdom. Be confident in yourself, and other people will believe it. Be unconfident with yourself, and other people will believe it. Until Next Time!

"But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Keep Laughing

Laughter is a funny thing. Science doesn’t really know how or why we do it. If you read scientific articles, like I do, you will find that most scientists who study laughter end up adopting a “belief” about it. Most hypotheses from these papers start with “I believe that we laugh because...” or “Our research has lead us to believe” but we have yet to come up with an exact reason as to why we, as humans, laugh.

I was riding the subway one day, when it was wayy too hot to bike, and a young father came onto the car with his child in a stroller. The child started to become distressed by the loud noises and cramped space of the subway, so the dad grabbed a stuffed doll and surprised the kid with it by putting it near her face. She immediately stopped crying and started laughing. Then he hid it, and she looked around for it, and he popped it out from the other side of the stroller, and she started laughing again. This went on for 15 minutes and the kid had completely forgotten her fears and was just enthralled with the magical disappearing/reappearing doll.

I love New York. This past week has been filled with so many crazy awesome things. Infinite variety, as it were. Stamp Brothers Productions opened Pygmalion, Mic and I got tattoo’s, we were at 7 different rehearsals in the course of 4 days, I lost my wallet and keys, Mic and I fought of swarms of cockroaches, Mic started biking and got a flat tire, I discovered the glory that is frozen yogurt, and Mic found a way to do laundry in a bucket.

You're gonna carry that weight...
Yeah you read right, I got a tattoo. It’s kind of an awesome story actually. So Michael and Zach both have tattoo’s on their right pec. They got them when the family visited Zach’s base in Fort Lenord Wood. I was not apart of that trip, cause I was off being awesome or something, and I didn’t get a tattoo. Well the brothers have been pressuring me to get a tattoo ever since. So this summer I promised them it would happen, and I had been searching for a reputable location since mic arrived. Out of nowhere my friend, Cece, who designed the backdrop for Ain’t No Such Thing As Free Pizza, the play I directed in April, texted me and said she was apprenticing to become a tattoo Artists, and would be willing to give me and a friend a free tattoo. It seemed like fate. I triple checked to make sure it wasn’t going to be sketchy or anything , and she reassured us that it was going to be very professional and under the guidance her 15 year old tattoo master teacher guy LaLo. So we went and got inked. It hurt, but it wasn’t unbearable either. And now something that is meaningful to me is a part of me. All in all, pretty awesome.

What’s got me in the blues, though, is that in a month this awesome summer it will all be over. Pygmalion has wrapped, which is really hard to believe, and then just a few weeks after that, Marley will go up and close. Then Mic will head home. And I will be in a tiny apartment that’s suddenly too large and too quiet.

But that’s life right? People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some stick around for a long time, some just for a show. For me the most important and dearest memories I hold of people is right in the middle of our time together. When we were in the thick of things, trying to figure everything out. The beginning and end are boring and sad. It’s the middle memories that, when I’m old and rocking in a chair in some nursing home in Colorado, that I will look back on and say “good times.” That of course is barring I don’t end up bankrupting myself and winding up homeless and dying in a knife fight with a hobo over a Swiss Roll. Both seem likely at this point. 

Jimmy Carr, a brilliant comedian with not so sound financial decisions,  sums up comedy in a single sentence: “Comedy is simply either something unexpected, or something expected.” And when you really think about that, its true. At the punch line of every joke, it’s either exactly what you expected, or something you didn’t expect at all. Here is a great example from comedian Mitch Headburg:” I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long.”
Expected or unexpected. That’s laughter and truly that’s life. Like the little girl on the subway, we just gotta keep laughing. Until Next time.

Laugh or I’ll tell it again. -Eugene Craven

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Main Shocker

It has been said that the problem with the world is that the intelligent people are filled with doubt and the stupid people are filled with confidence. The problem with the world is not that intelligent people are filled with doubt and the stupid people are filled with confidence; it's that the intelligent people justify their doubt while stupid people overcome it. My father told me once that the successful people in this world are not always the smartest. And this is true. I have met a lot of people whom one could deem "successful" and yet they do not seem deserving of their success. But what I have also found to be true is that successful people, at one time or another, had to roll up their sleeves, face their fears, and overcome their self-doubt.  Sure, they may not be intelligent, they may make wrong choices, but you cannot say that they did not work for it.
I started this blog for two reasons: to keep family and friends updated on how I am doing, and to serve as a guide for current and future New York transplants. Well, if you read the last blog post, it certainly wasn't a guide for transplants. More of a personal rant. This week’s post I am hoping will service as a guide for anyone who has moved to New York and is struggling, or is struggling on whether or not they should move to New York.
When making the jump to New York, or after having landed, the main shocker for everyone is one thing: Money. You suddenly realize how few of it you have. So here is a quick and dirty guide for living in New York City on a budget:

Cozy doesnt begin to describe....

Rent: This will be your biggest expense. Unless you live in a rent controlled apartment your grandmother got for $80 bucks a month back in 1934, you will be paying anywhere from 600-1000 dollars a month to live here. The less you want to pay, the further away you will live. If you want to live on the island of Manhattan, expect to pay no less than 900 a month. But if you can a room a little further away like in Sunnyside or Prospect Heights , or Inwood;  it will cut a lot off your rent bill. It’s a simple fact: The further away you live from Manhattan, the cheaper your rent will be. Try Iowa. I rented a whole house in Dubuque for what I am paying for my “cozy” NYC apartment.

Left-overs are your friend.

Food: Get food stamps. You probably qualify. Truly, governmental programs like this were designed  to help people who hit rough patches in life or are out of work and between jobs.  While you are at it, go to this website and fill out the questionnaire and see what other stuff you qualify for. Trust me, our government was designed to help us. The politicians might do things that lead you to believe otherwise, but there are programs that exists  to help us. And seeing as you are probably a poor post college grad with tons of debt and about to get poorer, you are exactly who needs help. But once you get the food stamps, it’s not over. You still have to plan accordingly, they don’t give you tons of money. Think less than 5 dollars a meal. Buy food that you can use to make lots of lunches and dinners. Think Ramen, and PB and J. Stuff that will last a while. And avoid eating out a lot because it will add up fast, and in New York City it is a challenge to find a meal less than 12 dollars. In this city you can pay 500 dollars for 3 dots and be expected to be happy about it. Though if you do eat out, see if you can save the left overs for lunch the next day. Unless you order the dots. They won’t put that in a Styrofoam container for you.

I-Device not included.

Transportation: My brother Michael has discovered this summer that you pretty much can’t leave the apartment without spending money. If you need to travel, it’ll cost you $2.50 one way on the subway. Want to get back home? That’s another 2.50. Buying the weekly ($30) or monthly ($112) train pass helps cut back on expense if  you ride the subway a lot, but again, that’s another monthly expense you will incur. You can try biking because that cuts way back on transport cost. I do it and love it, but it’s not for everyone. You basically have to have the guts to face a New York taxi driver with nothing between you and them but a 10 pound bike and determination.
Clothes: Don’t. Avoid buying lots of new ones. Have mom buy you stuff back home and ship it if you need to update the wardrobe. Re-ware things, invent new outfits, get creative. Remember:  This is a city that sells thousand dollar coats and dresses for one season.
Phone Bill: If you are like me, and pay your own phone bill, that’ll cost you about 98 bucks a month. I choose to spend more because I like the iPhone and its features (and Angry Birds), but if you don’t need a smart phone, check out a track phone, or even a month service with low minutes and texting plans. That’ll cut back communication costs a lot. 
Utilities: Like everything else here, these will cost a lot. Thankfully you wont have to pay for water or heat, because these are required by law to be provided by the landlord, but you will have to pay for electricity and internet, If you choose to have internet. Electricity for a one bedroom apartment can run around 60 bucks a month and more depending on how many roommates you have. Cooking gas can cost you too, if you don’t have an electric oven. And don’t forget about Laundry. That will cost you about 2.50 for a wash, and a quarter for 6 minutes of drying. So each week you might be spending 5 dollars on laundry. For one person utilities can add up to 75 or more dollars. And then internet is another 45 dollars. So utilities can run you well over 100 dollars a month. But if you don’t need internet a lot, starbucks gives it out for free. And there are a plethora of ways to cut back on electric costs too from shutting the lights off, to charging your computer at work, to turning off the AC.

This is actually one of my favorites.

Vices: Everyone has one. Whether it be smoking, drinking, comics, video games, or riding a unicycle, everyone has a vice. So instead of making yourself woefully unhappy by ignoring and fighting your vices, reward yourself. I like comics and video games because they distract me and allow me to shut my brain off for a bit. Theatre is hard stuff and there is lots of thinking involved. I find it is healthy to just shut my brain off and have fun for a bit because science says so, and it makes the stress easier to manage.  So budget in for your vices because, let’s be honest, you will want them and the harder you try to ignore them the harder they will pull back at you. I set aside like 10 bucks from my weekly paycheck for games or drinks. Maybe I don’t need anything this week? That’s fine, cause next week I got 20 bucks to drink away. Plan accordingly for those necessary vices.
That’s all I got so far. I don’t know if this is me, or New York, or me becoming an adult, but I’m realizing now that I find myself worrying a lot about the problems of my life. Worrying isn’t the right word… because it doesn’t occupy my mind constantly, but I can feel the weight of my problems on my back most of the time.
I was talking with a friend recently about, of all things, waking up from midday naps. We both discovered that we experience this weird moment right after we wake up, but before we are fully awake, of blissful ignorance. We both discovered that when we wake up  we experience a confused moment of “Who am I?” and “ Where am I?”. and then after about 10 seconds we would remember and then be like “Oh yeah, that’s who I am… and those are the problems with my life.” More specifically “That’s all the money I owe.”
Here is the point I have been rambling around: New York is challenging because it makes you figure out how to make 5 dollars last 3 days, but it’s also an awesome place because it provides ways of making that work. So if you want to move here, take my advice: Do it now. Don’t wait to have enough money because trust me, you won’t. Know that if you jump, someone will catch you, and If you fall, you will be better for it. Hope to see you soon. Until Next Time.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Anne Frank