A Movie in New York City

One of the great pleasures in life is going to a movie theater alone for some sparsely attended weekday matinee. Yes, it is nice to cuddle with a date at a movie or see a blockbuster with friends on opening night, but a great film experience is by its very nature solitary. If the artists have done their job right, it should always feel like you’re an audience of one.

That’s the special power of seeing a movie in an actual theater. The darkness, the cavernous space, the all encompassing surround sound transport you into the film. At least, that’s how it should be.

In reality, couples natter at each other, idiots check their phones, old people ask their companions what just happened and someone is constantly scrapping their fingernails on the bottom of a carton of popcorn. It’s hard to get lost in the experience.

Some movies are better with a crowd. A hilarious comedy or an Avengers-style action romp or a truly terrifying frightfest are improved by the collective laughter and unexpected jumps of an engaged audience.

Many other movies, though, are best seen alone. (Here’s where I admit I once stopped dating a girl largely because she talked during movies.)

Birdman Poster

This week, I finally got around to seeing Birdman, this year’s Best Picture Oscar Winner, and I was pleased to find a mostly empty East Village Theater when I arrived. All the easier for surreptitiously pouring my flask of whiskey into my half-filled cup of coke.

A group of four Japanese girls came in shortly before the movie began and I was worried that they might be Chatty Cathys but they were graciously silent throughout.

Birdman is bit of a paradox in that it’s a deeply cerebral and artistic film that rewards close viewing, but also a wickedly funny and mesmerizing flick that manages to borrow much of the visual flare from the superhero movies it’s satirizing. I’m happy to have seen the movie essentially by myself so as to not have the intricate details overshadowed by laughter or a rowdy house, but at the same time there were so many impressive scenes – both in terms of acting and directing (I think Michael Keaton should have won Best Actor, but whatever) – that watching the movie with a packed house very well could have heightened the thrills and emotions.

Regardless, I thought Birdman was a fantastic movie. It wasn’t my favorite film of 2014, but it’s certainly one that I will be recommending enthusiastically.

My favorite film of the last year was another movie that I saw in a mostly empty Manhattan theater: Whiplash. I have been recommending this staggering film to almost everyone I’ve met ever since I saw it and I was rooting mightily for J.K. Simmons to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (he did!). I’ve never seen the exhilarating thrill of live music captured so perfectly on film, even in concert documentaries.

Whiplash PosterThere is no question that this is a film of powerhouse performances with Simmons and Miles Teller filling each and every scene with pathos and sheer emotional rawness. For the first hour and 20 minutes or so of screen time, this is one of those ‘see it in an empty theater’ type films. It’s a powerful character piece that explores the depths of artistic obsession both in a student and a teacher.

Without getting too much into the details, I will say that the last 20 minutes is absolutely a ‘see it with a crowd’ type film. It’s a sustained climax in every sense of that word. Seriously, after the nearly 80 minutes of punishing musical instruction, the final performance is basically the equivalent of a cinematic orgasm.

That’s the singular power of film. It can speak to you as an individual while also uniting you with an audience for one glorious, shared trip.

My New York on Film

It’s fitting that both Whiplash and Birdman were set in New York City (come to think of it, my other favorite movie of the year, Obvious Child, was also set in NYC). It was reading about New York City in novels (and comic books) that first made me want to be here, but it was in movies where I found my first taste of what that life could be like.

Few cities in the world can claim as vast a cinematic language as the 5 Burroughs (perhaps only Paris matches New York for pure visual fantasy). Whether in romantic comedies, hard-boiled noir, action/adventure, crime drama or any other genre, there’s always that cliché: The city is a character, too. And no city has a more schizophrenic range of characters than New York.

Of course, I realize that most movie representations of New York are about as realistic as Friends, but that’s beside the point. I’ve never looked to movies for their documentary depictions of life. Even as a kid, I was simply reaching for cathartic release, an escape from small town Kansas and insular Christianity. A part of me hoped New York life could be as glamorous as it was onscreen, but what really drew me in was simply the size, the gargantuan storehouse of possibilities

Now I’m in New York and, no, to answer so many people’s question: It isn’t everything I imagined it could be. Because my imagined New York City is a movie set, a fantasy. And that’s okay. Reality has never matched up with my imagination. Every city I’ve lived in has failed to live up to the imagined version I held before I moved there.

And, yet, in a truer sense, every city has surpassed my imagination because any mental picture will always be hopelessly limited in comparison to the real thing.

My time in New York City is only just beginning. It has included concerts in Central Park and the Barclay Center, drinking on a rooftop with the Manhattan skyline in the background, late night subway rides with passed out drunks, bookstores and coffee houses and pizza joints and even a short but intoxicating liaison with a beautiful and talented French artist. And I haven’t even been here 6 months yet.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here before the call of the road takes me away, but sitting in that movie theater this week and seeing New York City on screen again, I was reminded why I always wanted to be here in the first place, why I had picked this city to be my 10th and final stop.

So, no, my time in New York City hasn’t been filled with non-stop thrills and raging parties. I haven’t had the definitive New York City experience yet, nor will I ever. But I’m having my own experience, and that’s enough. It’s my movie to make how I see fit.

Only time will tell if I’m making a crowd pleaser or the kind of film best seen on a quiet Wednesday afternoon in an empty theater.

Birdman In Focus

This May: Spread The Love

Art is nourished by criticism. An honest and educated appraisal of a work’s strengths and weaknesses helps us better appreciate art, both as creators and consumers. I say this up front so it is clear that what I am about to propose is not attacking art criticism or art critics. It is a worthy profession, an important one in the right hands, even a noble endeavor for a select few.

Criticism, though, is becoming angrier and duller. As the adage goes, everyone is a critic, and this has never been more true than in the Internet Age. This wondrous invention that allows us to experience the world from the comfort of our bedrooms is filling up with poison, and we’re all responsible for it.

We use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, forums, and innumerable websites to spout off on all manner of experiences, and with inevitable frequency, we are voicing displeasure. We can’t simply click past, our disapproval must be known. We feel compelled to inform the creator that they have failed and then troll the fan base. The world cannot be allowed to spin another minute without it being known that this random thing that you, of your own volition, experienced did not live up to your satisfaction.

So here is my proposal:

For the month of May, let us refrain from negative criticisms.
Instead, let’s focus on the positive and ‘Spread the love’.

This will not be easy, I know.

For all of May, refrain from criticizing Youtube videos, skip the Facebook bashing, don’t tweet about a movie you loathed (or its stars) and let your disdain for a TV show subside. Don’t even hit the thumbs down button on Stumbleupon. Just move on. Criticism is not all bad, but maybe, just maybe, we’ve become so obsessed with what we hate that we’re losing sight of what we love. So, for 31 short days, why not refocus our energy on enjoying art?

Suggestions for things to do as an alternative to criticizing:

1. Share a favorite work of art with a friend or stranger.

2. Read positive reviews of art you’ve never experienced and consume it.

3. Write a positive review of something you loved.

4. Request art recommendations from friends.

5. Close your browser and go outside; see a live band or go to a movie theater, or get cozy in a chair at your local bookstore and read two to three chapters.

6. Watch porn.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter, just expend the energy some other way. Be cool.


I know it will be a struggle for most people, it will be for me, too. But I think we need a hiatus from our jobs as the world’s critics. It’s not like it pays well.

Before I’m accused of squashing Free Speech or I’m dismissed as a ‘Love Is All You Need’ hippie, let me reiterate that I’m not proposing the abolishment of all negativity. This is a finite challenge I’m proposing for all of us, like a New Years Resolution or Lent, except instead of trying to lose weight or fasting for spiritual purposes, we agree to refrain from spewing hatred for one month. And then, in June, we can return to our regularly scheduled vitriol.

I assure you, the world will not stop spinning if you delay telling Dave Matthews fans how much he sucks, nor will a new ice age befall us if the failings of the new Spider-man movie aren’t thoroughly documented on your blog. Terrible art exists and it deserves to be called out for its shortcomings, but for the month of May we can ignore it in order to celebrate the truly great art.

To address some other possible concerns:

1. This challenge is about art. Politics and science require constant scrutiny. Which is not to suggest that art is lesser than politics or science – not by any means – only that art’s impact on the world isn’t as immediate or dire.

2. If you make your living as an art critic, it might not be feasible for you to only write positive reviews. Then again, maybe your editor would be on board if you devoted May exclusively to spotlighting your favorite works. This should be easy for non-professional critics.

3. Even if you’re not someone who regularly discusses art, use this month to spread the word on what you like. You may just introduce someone to their new favorite band, book or show.

4. If you enjoy the idea, don’t feel like you have to limit yourself. Spread the love to other realms of your life.

5. If you think this is an insipid, meaningless gesture, maybe you’re right. But why not give it a try for a month anyway, what could it hurt?

Don’t think of it as giving up criticism. Think of it as a month’s vacation from things you don’t like. So this May, practice the fine art of saying something nice. You might even grow to like it.

Thumper Quote

If you like this idea and plan on participating, please share this post and use #SpreadTheLove to keep it trending. What could one month of positivity bring about?

Unreliable Perspectives

What is to be made of an unreliable narrator? Generally, our cultural narratives are presented through an omniscient perspective, so much so in fact that often we miss or are simply incapable of recognizing when we’re presented with a dubious point of view. It is so engrained in us to trust the narrator or protagonist to tell the true story, we are far too often easy marks for unreliable narrators or liars. Even when the story lets it be known upfront that it is the subjective experience of a particular character, audiences are often burdened by their addiction to literalism.

Unreliable perspectives were used notably in a variety of popular films in the 90s and early 2000s, particularly in The Usual Suspects, Fight Club and Memento. Strangely, after the Oscar winning A Beautiful Mind in 2001 fooled us with the perspective of a schizophrenic, mainstream Hollywood movies shied away from such narrative chicanery. That’s not to say that such films didn’t exist, but they have either been poorly received by audiences or just plain poorly made (2004’s Secret Window being both). In the wake of 9/11, did our need for distinct heroes and villains make unreliable narrators less palatable?

Summer Days

Occasionally in this young century, a film (or book) has broken through the mainstream with an unreliable perspective, but audiences largely chose to take the presented narrative at face value.

500 Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer (2009) is one of the most glaring examples in recent years. The movie, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ‘Tom’ and Zooey Deschanel as ‘Summer’ is ostensibly a romantic comedy that indulges in a variety of symbolic and playful cinematic flourishes to tell the story of love found/love lost. While there is a (basically) omniscient narrator throughout the movie, the perspective of the movie is Tom’s, and the film lets the audience know early on that not everything he believes is necessarily true (we are told that as a child his romanticized view of love led him to misread the ending of The Graduate).

Many fans of the movie seem to enjoy it non-ironically as if it were a traditional rom-com, while almost every criticism of (500) refers to Summer as a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (a popular term coined by film critic Nathan Rabin), which is derogative shorthand for an idealistic, quirky, nigh-perfect (usually she has some insignificant flaw) female who helps the male protagonist grow and better understand himself, or love, or the world. Or all. The true defining characteristic of the MPDG is that outside of her role in the male protagonist’s life, she has little to no personal drive.

The irony of this film’s critics labeling Summer a MPDG is that that’s precisely the way Tom sees her, a dream girl who exists to save him from the drudgery of his greeting card-writing life.

The first hour of the movie allows Tom to indulge in this fantasy, but reality abruptly reasserts itself about halfway through the story (overtly symbolized by the split screen party scene). This shift clues the audience in that Summer is not just a plastic doll for Tom’s fulfillment (or, contrarily, a ‘bitch’ as the opening narration asserts). Rather, she is a living, breathing woman with her own desires and her own proclivities in sex and relationships. She’s not perfect, but she’s also not a monster. At the risk of spoiling the ending, those who leave (500) with the belief that Summer is a MPDG are either misapplying the term or are trapped in the same delusion movie-watching mindset that gave Tom his rose-colored view of The Graduate.

(I’d argue that 500’s final scene meet-cute with Tom immediately falling for new girl, Autumn, is actually a subversively pessimistic suggestion that Tom hasn’t grown at all, but I digress.)

Learning To Question Ourselves

I wish more movies and books in the popular canon indulged in unreliable perspectives. While common wisdom claims this is the generation of irony, earnest narrators and protagonists remain quite in vogue. There is nothing wrong with sincerity, and in fact I frequently prefer it to irony which in the hands of lesser artists is nothing more than a feeble cover for having nothing to say. But fiction (and non-fiction, for that matter) benefits from a willingness to suggest, “Here’s one perspective, but it’s just one of many, and maybe it’s not even a very good one.”

In Steven Pinker’s (2011) exhaustive analysis of human violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, he suggests that one of the major factors in our species’ shift towards more benevolent treatment of each other was the printing explosion that made it possible for books (especially novels) to proliferate and spread. Reading allows us to recognize that other people from completely different backgrounds still have recognizable experiences, beliefs and thoughts. It’s harder to dehumanize an entire group once you’ve been in their head.

Unreliable perspectives in our narratives can help us go even further: They make us more receptive to the idea that our own views might not necessarily be correct. In a culture dominated by Right vs. Left, Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them, is there any doubt our civilization would benefit from more people being willing to say, “Well, this is what I believe, but I might be wrong”? When you read a book with no definitive perspective or watch a movie that questions its own premise, you are being trained in the valuable art of self-evaluation.

A recent scientific study has revealed that reading literary fiction improved “empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence” in participants. Literary fiction is one of the few genres (alongside mystery) that frequently uses unreliable narrators or perspectives. However, whereas a mystery might use an unreliable narrator to fool the reader, the unreliable perspective in literary fiction is used to question traditional viewpoints and undermine simplistic interpretations of events.

This Is Not A Love Story…

Looking back on a number of my past romantic relationships, I can recognize the perspective I had at the time, I can even understand how I came to the view I had. But with time, those views seem less like mountaintop outlooks and more like the perception of a guy in the valley, just like everyone else. That doesn’t mean there isn’t objective truth, or that real wrongs weren’t done (on both sides), only that the story I tell myself and others originates from an unreliable narrator, just like all of our stories.

That’s really the message of (500) Days of Summer: Every story has two sides, and both are probably wrong. It isn’t the first movie to attempt that message, and it won’t be the last, but it is unique for coming out in a time when most media seemed locked into the Good Vs. Evil paradigm. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it does something better than almost any romantic comedy in recent memory: It gives both parties their own agency and trusts the audience to judge them for who they are, not for who they present themselves to be.

We live in complex times. Our art and entertainment should reflect that. It should challenge us to question what we know, and in doing so, it will teach us to be more engaged. Not just with films and books, but with the world we dance, kiss, screw, cry, scream, sing, laugh and, ultimately, live in.

The Art Diet: A Changing Meal

Any consumption of art is an act of exclusion. When you wander the aisles of a bookstore, scroll your Netflix queue or open Spotify, you are presented with a sea of choices and you narrow it down based on internal criteria. You could spend your entire life devoted to consuming art and you’d still never scratch the surface. Being an informed art consumer has always required a considerable amount of dedication, but what does that dedication look like in a time when the territory of art is expanding?

Our modern world provides vast options. It’s not just the prodigious abundance of artists and genres that exists; we also have forms of art that no past generations could have ever conceived of, let alone experience. Even relatively new mediums like film and photography feel ancient in comparison to digital mediums and the new forms of storytelling that computers and the internet now provide.

The medium that brought us Pac-Man now offers characters with backstories, motivations and morality. Within the span of a generation, video games have evolved from mere distractions to long-form, narrative-based interactive works. Are they art? As someone who doesn’t consume the medium, I don’t feel qualified to answer, but something tells me that the more appropriate question is, “When exactly did video games become art?”

Pac-Man Cake


My personal consumption of art probably qualifies me as old-fashioned and stodgy. I love books. Physical books. I have a tablet and I’ve started reading my first digital book (Mark Twain’s Following the Equator), but my bed remains a repository for a pile of bound paper. I still own DVDs and I prefer slow-paced, character-based dramas to loud and CGI-enhanced (though there are always exceptions). My music library is all digital now, but I have rarely ever bought one song on its own. I believe firmly in the album experience and I like artists who care more about tracklists than singles.

As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t play video games. I’m not opposed to them, I just find them personally unengaging and I usually lose interest well before I have any hope of completing my objective. This is probably the result of my parents refusing to have any console system in the house more advanced than an Atari, no matter how much we kids begged. I don’t know if that was the “right” choice, but it had definite dividends for my reading habits.

Am I better off without video games? Many would say yes, but I’m slower to make that judgment.

Harry Potter Series


A reoccurring refrain among older pundits is that kids don’t read, an odd recrimination considering that YA fiction is one of the strongest arms of the publishing industry. The best selling series of all time is Harry Potter, and while a healthy percentage of adults read those books, too, I don’t know a single person currently in their 20s who didn’t read them*. Kids do read, it’s just that they also do a whole host of other things, too.

Films and TV were books’ first competitors, but the 20th century is one long history of alternative leisure pastimes. By the 21st century, the fledgling internet was just one of a plethora of activities and distractions available to us. Ask someone in their late 20s to early 30 and they’ll have vague memories of what their life was like before the internet became ubiquitous, but let’s not kid ourselves: We weren’t all sitting around fastidiously studying and reading for our personal edification. We were watching absolute crap television like Knight Rider and Saved by the Bell and trying to save the princess.

Before that, it was Happy Days and a bouncing white ball on a black screen.

There isn’t something fundamentally wrong with this young generation that wasn’t already present in their forebears. They just have overwhelming choices in what they consume, so many choices that it’s sometimes hard to grasp just how diverse their experiences have become. A kid today has the same kind of peer pressure to be knowledgeable about his generation’s pop culture as all of us had, but there’s also an assumption put on him by adults that he will consume older pop culture, too (because, of course, our art was better).

Today, sounding artistically informed not only requires familiarity with two or three centuries of literature, but also with the past five decades of pop music, films of the 70s and 80s, television in the 90s and 00s, comic books (superheroes and other) from, at the very least, Frank Miller’s run on Batman, and video games going back to 8-bit. There should also be thorough knowledge of internet memes and viral videos. Compare that to the know-it-all hipsters in High Fidelity and John Cusack seems like a pussy.

If I exclude certain forms of art from my diet (and by necessity I do), it’s merely because I don’t have a taste for them, not because I believe they lack merit. My personal disinterest in gaming says nothing about the medium’s ascension to art. It wasn’t too long ago that comic books were considered frivolous entertainment, but now graphic novels have won a Pulitzer Prize and numerous Hugo Awards. I don’t have to be a consumer of these art forms to recognize there is admirable work being done. In an ideal world, I’d have the time to appreciate the finest examples of every art form. Also, whiskey would pour out of faucets. Nothing’s ideal.


I know some critics might stop me and incredulously ask, “Are you suggesting we throw out our art standards?” Quite the contrary. Art is the most important non-essential element in our lives. So important, in fact, that it honestly crosses over to being essential. A life without art cannot possibly be considered life. A life without good art is shallow. We should still care about the quality of the art we consume, but we mustn’t assume that medium dictates worth.

Generational scolds who look down on a younger generation for their artistic diets are failing to understand that the buffet before these kids is practically limitless. To compare their consumption with that of a previous generation is comparing apples to Apple. In an hour online, a kid can find more information than a student in the 80s would be able to access sitting all day in a library. With shorter attention spans, kids might not be adapted to our world, but they are adapting to the world that’s being created around them every day.

Does that mean that the kids are alright and we should just get off their backs and let them be? Well, mostly no, but a little yes. Every generation needs to be challenged and pushed and forced to work hard when they don’t want to. Kids shouldn’t be coddled or neglected, and just because a child doesn’t like something immediately doesn’t mean they should be allowed to abandon it. But, this young generation also needs to be judged by different, ever-evolving standards.

That’s right, being an adult doesn’t mean you get to stop caring about new things. I know you were secretly relieved when you didn’t have to keep up with all the latest fads, but the world didn’t stop changing when you did and that evolution is speeding up exponentially. Each generation finds new ways to express themselves, and while it’s comforting to think that the art we loved will always be relevant, the youth culture has always been the harbingers of the art to come.

As a writer, no one is more invested in seeing the written word maintain its prominence in the culture than me, but I’m also a consumer with a large appetite for diverse flavors of art. New art forms don’t threaten what I do, they build upon and expand it. I hope in a hundred years we are still reading novels and listening to albums, but if we’re not, that doesn’t mean art has died. It’s just evolved.


*Well, I never read them, but I’m also not currently in my 20s, so let’s not quibble.

Never Share Your Love; or The Dangers of a Mixtape

Cassette Tape

One of my favorite things in the world is creating a music mix. Call it a mixtape (I do), a mixed CD, a playlist, whatever, the name doesn’t matter, it’s the act that matters. The curation of a good mix is an art form, but it’s an act of love, too.

Now, I don’t mean an act of love in the sense that making a mixtape means you love the person you’re making it for (though that’s usually the case). I mean that taking the time to compile, organize and craft a mix is the act of loving music, perhaps even to a fanatical, obsessive level.

I’ve made mixes for girlfriends, crushes, friends, siblings, and even just mixes for myself when I’m in a particular mood and need a pick-me-up (the process of creating the mix can do the trick). The common thread in these mixes is my love of the music. Sometimes the songs I choose are meant to be representative of a period in my or the listener’s life. Sometimes it’s about creating a timeless mix. A good mix, besides flowing from one song to the next, can often tell a story, maybe even with a moral.

I love mixtapes, but boy are they dangerous.

When you share a song with someone, you share a part of yourself. No, you didn’t write it, but we all have a song (or movie, or book) that resonates with us so deeply that it feels like an organ inside us. To share it with someone is to open yourself up and say, “This is me.”

We all know the crushing disappointment of sharing that part of ourselves with someone and them saying, “Meh. It’s okay.” For many of us, the art we love is so much a part of our identity that any rejection (or indifference) feels personal. But, I tell you, there’s a far greater danger inherent in the mixtape.

When you enter into a relationship with someone, you share the things you love. There is intimacy in that, even when that just means having “your place” for slices of pizza or a favorite dive bar. A relationship is about intertwining oneself with another, a binding that ties your tastes together. Your girlfriend starts listening to electronica because you blast it on your happy days, or your boyfriend starts watching Paul Thomas Anderson films because you said he’s the greatest living director.

For a perfect moment in time, the things you love are loved by the person you love, and you achieve the Eros Singularity.

And then you break-up.

For the first month or two, everything reminds you of your ex, no matter what it is. The smell of bacon, the way the leaves crunch underfoot, the nattering sounds of co-workers discussing The Voice. Somehow, every road leads back to the one now gone.

With time, though, you heal, and those connections fall away until you can go back to living a normal life without the constant reminder of heartbreak.

The problem, though, is while the implicit connections are no longer there, the explicit ones still exist. You might be able to go downtown without thinking about him, but getting a slice of pepperoni pie at Luigi’s is out of the question. And it doesn’t matter if Mike the Bartender is loose with the pour, you can’t sit on that stool without her sitting next to you.

These connections are never deeper than with shared art. The two of you had a song, a favorite movie, a novel that you read together and had lengthy discussions about deep into the night.

Those stinging associations are the price of doing business. Losing them is yet another loss in the process of heartbreak, but you lived without them B.E. (Before Ex) and you’ll live without them now.

No, the true danger comes with sharing the art you loved before you met the future/former significant other. Those are the songs, movies and books that were a part of you when that other fell in love with you. It’s part of what they liked about you, because you had internalized that art as part of your personality. When you break-up, they get to take that with them, leaving behind a scar. It’s a raw wound, and unlike Luigi’s or the oeuvre of P.T. Anderson, you can’t avoid touching it because it’s still a part of you.

This is why you should never share everything that you love. Sure, this girl is the love of your life now, and you want her to know everything about you, but don’t be a fool. You’re 24 and you’re going to date other people. You got engaged? That’s great, but at one point so were 100% of the people who are now divorced (give or take Las Vegas).

The relationship ends, and suddenly everything that once defined you is ripped in half.

Never share all your love. I love the music of Ryan Adams and have had at least one song of his hold special meaning for every ex I’ve ever had. But not “Come Pick Me Up.” That’s my song, no one gets to touch it.* It’ll never be associated with just one woman (even if the lyrics makes me think of one or two), and I will never be unable to listen to it because of a painful connection.

The same goes for Radiohead’s entire catalog. I’ve never once dated a girl who loved Radiohead like I love Radiohead (which probably explains why none of my relationships have lasted). They might have been fans, or grown to like them because of me, but there isn’t a single song or album by the band that makes me think of an ex. I never have to worry about a startlingly wave of sad memories when I listen to my favorite band.

There’s so much art out there that I love, a lot of which I want to share with romantic partners, even when I acknowledge the realistic odds that things won’t work out. That is, as I said, the price of being in love.

But a person should hold onto something that is all theirs. Autonomy requires it. Love is a ‘many splendored thing’ and all that horseshit, but the love of art is the purest form that exists. Why taint that?

*Obviously it’s a lot of people’s song. But in relation to my personal love life, it’s mine.

8 Years

June 1st, 2005, a day that will live in… obscurity.



Do you remember what you were doing in 2005? 8 years ago. A person could have graduated college twice in that much time, or watched every episode of How I Met Your Mother on its original air date. There’s been somewhere in the vicinity of 30 million births in that time; 15 million deaths. A black man was elected the President of the United States, twice!

The passage of time is notched with innumerable road markers.

Think about all the bands and artists you had almost certainly never heard of before 2005: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bon Iver, Lykke Li, Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s, Bloc Party, Passion Pit, Beirut, Bat For Lashes, My Brightest Diamond, Fleet Foxes, The Swell Season, Yeasayer, Dirty Projectors, Band of Horses, A Fine Frenzy,  Justice, St. Vincent, Vampire Weekend, the Dodos, Laura Marling, Eisley, She & Him, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Florence + The Machine, The XX… and that’s just in the indie music sphere.

Mad Men and Breaking Bad couldn’t even have existed on television in 2005. Marvel Comic’s strategy of transporting their entire comic universe to the big screen was getting them laughed out of studio meetings (putting Robert Downey, Jr. in your movies was still considered a risky move). Your sister probably hadn’t even picked up a copy of Twilight yet (well, not all the changes have been positive).

“iPhone? What’s an iPhone?” <- That’s you in 2005. Loser.

The point is, the world has changed considerably in the years since I began 10 Cities / 10 Years, and most of those changes happened without us noticing the shift. From year to year, month to month, day to day, our world evolves and the changes just sort of wash over us. But if you pick a date on an old calender and compare it to the current moment in history, the changes are a monsoon.


The Trees for the Forest

Our world transforms at a rate that would be completely incomprehensible to past generations. As those changes come about more rapidly, we evolve to adapt just as quickly, which in turn leads to an even greater rate of change.

But humans don’t really change all that much.

Every few years or so there’s a new article about how this generation is so strange and different and how can the older generation possibly understand them and will these young’uns ever mature and why won’t they get off our lawns? These articles focus on the generational trends and ignore that the underlying motivations and desires of individuals are the same as they always have been. Just because this generation is getting married at 28 instead of 23 doesn’t mean that marriage isn’t a priority. Love, lust, procreation, these will always be the reason we get out of bed (and back into it *rimshot*).

Cultures change rapidly. Species evolve gradually.


We’re here, in the future. Two years from now we’ll have hoverboards and self-lacing sneakers, and man will that be a crazy time, but until then we’ve got a pretty amazing world. There’s a lot of focus on the ills of technology, but from where I sit (in my apartment in New Orleans, where I’d be struggling to breathe if it weren’t for central air), we live in a great future. Literature of the 20th century told us that by this point in human history we would be ruled by a Hitlerian-authority or living in a burnt out nuclear wasteland.

It’s not very hip for futurists to paint with an optimistic brush, but every day we move closer towards Gene Roddenberry’s vision and away from George Orwell’s. Frankly, I hope to be using a transporter to get to work by 2020. Hell, I demand it.



In two years, I’ll be finished with a project that I have devoted my adult life to. I don’t know what I’ll do after that. I imagine there will be a great feeling of relief at the end, as well as a sort of sad emptiness knowing that a major portion of my life is complete. But my life won’t be over. Nor will the life of this crazy, terrible, beautiful, fantastic species.

There are still books to be written, songs to be composed, movies to be filmed. We aren’t anywhere near being done yet.

So answer 2 questions for me:

8 years ago you were doing _______?

8 years from now you will be doing _______?

We Beat On

Happy June 1st everyone.