Governor Quixote

Governor Quixote

Maybe it’s because money is so tight or because I’m finding Texas increasingly inhospitable to rational speculation, but this Jade Helm bullshit is gnawing at my brain. I realize my output has still been scant and I promise I’ll get back to blogging about movies or writing or art at some point, but I feel I need to unload another rant, albeit a small one…

While everyone laughs at our Governor for his tin-foil/Alex Jones psychopathy, what’s going unnoticed is that Texans, as taxpayers, are paying for this embarrassing nonsense. This is far from the first time Abbott has shamelessly wasted our money tilting at Federal windmills. As Attorney General, he spent $2.58 million of taxpayer money on 27 lawsuits against the Federal Government from the moment Obama took office, attacking frequent Tea Party targets like Obamacare and the Clean Air Act. That’s not conservatism, it’s radical anti-government extravagance. And it’s what happens when you elect someone with the intellectual maturity of a Golden Retriever to run your state. Texas’s “economic miracle” could be coming to a close sooner that most people think. When voters elect these kind of politicians, they only lock in a future of hardship.

This Unseen Mechanism

Yes, finally. I’m finally posting some work-in-progress. This is a glimpse of what Ronald Novak’s interview will look like in the finished From The Gut short film. The interview provides the narrative underpinning and, as it’s divided into five segments throughout the length of the short, illustrates how the surrealism in the background plates slowly intensifies to an absurd free-for-all. Yes, there’s a lot going on in the frame. That’s intentional. And, yes, that’s Bill Wise from the Oscar-nominated Boyhood. That’s pure, Austin-derived destiny.

The password is: Golden Eggs

From The Gut – Ronald Novak excerpts from Jay Hollinsworth on Vimeo.

Manufactory of Echoes

Texas textbooks

I’ll admit it’s poor form to vent one’s spleen all over the Facebook feeds of others. I’ve been doing it quite a lot recently and I’m not proud of it. So I’ll do my spleen venting here.

Last week, the battle over Texas textbooks shook out pretty much the way everyone who’s grown accustomed to the indoctrination methods of the christian right expected. Moses was a spiritual founding father (probably more important than that god-hater Jefferson), the slave trade was actually the Atlantic triangular trade, capitalism’s not capitalism but “free enterprise”… basically, the kind of shit Orwell would offer an acerbic chuckle at. And, also predictably, my social media feeds were littered with derisive comments from those outside of Texas. And why not? Making fun of Texas, and specifically Texas politics is fun. I sometimes wonder if some Lone Star politicians are in on the joke and merely bored and trolling for laughs. Yes, I’m talking about the living, breathing Warner Bros. cartoon that is Louie Gohmert. The comments that alarmed me were some that came from within the borders of this fucked up Republic, the ones essentially adopting a “who cares” mentality. I’m a native born Idahoan. I’m no stranger to residing in a place that provides the intellectual elite with a comfortable punchline, and I understand steeling yourself to adapt to the reality of living in a right wing playground, but apathy can be seductive and dangerous.

Right off, it’s important to attempt to contextualize rather than oversimplify. No, people in Texas aren’t insane. People in Beaumont aren’t even insane. They’re poor, scared and gullible to the point where they’d elect David Bradley, a real estate broker with no experience in education, who homeschooled his own children, to the state legislative body that oversees pubic education. Yes, that does sound crazy, but the reality is far more insidious. Bradley attempted (and failed) to get claims from the Heartland Institute refuting climate change published in one science textbook. As an insight into the Heartland Institute’s quest for science, Philip Morris hired them in the 90’s to publish a “policy study” questioning the link between secondhand smoke and health risks. And Bradley thinks critical thinking skills are “gobbledygook”. And he proposed an amendment to state social studies curriculum to always include Hussein in the president’s name. And he doesn’t have a firm grasp of what “conflict of interest” means. And he likes to bully women. What’s pathetic is that Bradley’s far from the only demagogue on this school board. Cynthia Dunbar has her own list of greatest hits, Don McLeroy likes to mansplain to the ladies about minorities, and Ken Mercer is my own personal bête noire. He’s a software engineer bankrolled by James Leininger to champion creationism and (again) discourage critical thinking, and because of the anti-democratic scourge of gerrymandering, this lying, lumbering fuckwit actually represents me. Before becoming a parent, that might not have had much of an impact on me. Now it fills me with revulsion.

That’s why I find those “it doesn’t affect my school district” quips from Austinites maddening. I’ll admit to a fair amount of indifference to politics when I was childless and living in Brooklyn, but this state is ground zero for a malady that infects the entire nation. Texas is such a large market for textbooks, its approved primary and secondary syllabi can influence the content of classroom materials throughout the entire country. School board elections, city council elections, and court appointments are where these battles start. It’s where batshit crazy politicians get their teabag sea legs. Again, see Louie Gohmert. The state voter turnout in this last election was deplorable, even with high profile races like Davis vs. Abbott and Van de Putte vs. Patrick, and the sad thing is, it shouldn’t be about the high profile races. It should be about getting to know your reactionary zealots before they make national headlines.

So dismissing the events of the past several weeks as being more “crazy Texas stuff” that ultimately affects only a few may help boost one’s feelings of superiority and serenity, but it’s those very attitudes that have contributed to keeping this ridiculous idealogical ping-pong match that we now call our government dysfunctional and corrupt.

(Not Really a) Status Update

I’ve been doing a lot of apologizing lately. If my own self-generated publicity is to be believed, I’m a creator of images (both moving and still), a writer, and an all-around creative factotum. The thing is, over the past several months, I’ve had very little to show for all this bluster. My blog, rather than full of behind-the-scenes stills, sketches and production logs, is full of excuses and complaints. The events of this summer have only compounded the frustration and I’ve come to realize that it’s probably best to offer some details. So consider this an explanation—a record—but not another apology.

This year got off to a difficult start. As parents of a preschooler, both my wife and I discovered first-hand the reality that all parents of preschoolers discover: you/they will be sick constantly during their first winter of school. Constantly. From January to April, there was little more than three or four consecutive days that I actually felt like a real human with functional lungs and an unfogged head. Days passed in a phlegm-clogged narcosis, as we both went through the routines of keeping a child fed, bathed and clothed, while simultaneously holding down our jobs and the house. Working on creative endeavors was on a burner, but I’ll admit it was toward the back.

As spring gave way to summer, all those maladies from previous months started to seem trivial and silly. Every visit to the doctor felt like a spin on some malevolent “Wheel of Misfortune”. It started with an eye exam. I had apparently been misdiagnosed with an astigmatism ten years prior in New York and, as a measurement of the curvature of my corneas confirmed, actually had a rapidly advancing case of keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease. After consulting with my ophthalmologist and a specialist, it became clear that the best course of action was corneal cross-linking treatment, a parasurgical procedure commonplace in Europe but not yet approved by the FDA. Because of this, I was only able to qualify as a subject in a “clinical trial” and, naturally, our insurance won’t chip in for any of the $4000 bill. So, still working out the schedule of our late summer/early fall engagements, we decided on a couple of weekends in October where, hopefully, my sight won’t be all that necessary. I actually felt a little settled for a brief period of time, the four grand notwithstanding.

Then, two weeks before our trip to the Northwest for a family reunion, I received more shitty news, this time in a twin dose. The first was a loss of a freelance client. In and of itself, not that earth-shattering of a development. After all, it’s a harsh reality of freelancing that clients will come and go with little to no notice. This client, however, had grown into a primary source of income; I’d been billing upwards of 30-35 hours a week for them, and an overly dependent relationship had developed that I don’t recommend for any freelancer. While it was a serious blow, it hardly came as a surprise. The work that I was doing for them had become obsolete, they were growing financially weaker as a company and, again, I was merely a freelancer. You never really know what job will be your last job.

Several days after that dilemma, I received the results from the biopsy of a pair of moles shaved several weeks before. My dermatologist had been mapping and monitoring the abundance of moles on my body and I made the mistake of assuming that diligence and scrutiny were all that were required to keep me in the clear. Whether out of avoidance or blind ignorance, I had prepared for nothing. I simply anticipated a positive result. The call from my dermatologist altered my thinking drastically. Both samples (one from the back, one from the arm) came back positive for melanoma. The only thing my mind could conjure at that moment was, “Huh. So cancer happened.” I don’t know if flippancy is a coping mechanism or just a result of being a dummy or maybe just an expression of numbness, but this is the point of the blog post where I must make a serious recommendation: never google a condition you’ve been diagnosed with. It really doesn’t help. So now I get a lot more doctor visits, know where my lymph nodes are, and I know how to check them. At least, I think I’m checking them. And I have two impressive scars that I can convincingly pass off as old wounds from a particularly savage knife fight. Empty handed I am not.

And while my recent (scant) posts have blamed fatherhood as an excuse for not getting anything done, I’ll reiterate that there is something to that, and it’s not necessarily negative. Yes, I haven’t been nearly as productive as I’d like but if you want your kid to have a somewhat healthy personality, it’s important to be there for him, not just taking up space, but engaged, connected and patient. And, luckily enough for us, our kid is pretty fun. That’s not to say that working from home has been sunshine and chocolate-covered bacon for either my wife or myself. It can be a strain. You can tell yourself that you’ll sit down at the computer and pick up the work of tweaking “the rest of that last shot” at night after everyone goes to bed, but when it’s your genes responsible for your child’s high octane imagination and he’s going through his first bad dream phase, it’s also your responsibility to talk him through it at two in the morning.

So there it is. I didn’t write this out of self-pity or to elicit any sympathy. Honestly, as my angry, all-too-self-reliant Welsh blood apparently runs pretty deep, sympathy is something I dread more than Texas politics. After all, this is the summer where I was invited to become a member of two support groups. There’s a surplus of shoulders to cry on. I’m purely proposing that the next time a friend or acquaintance isn’t quite up to speed on something, seems like they’re behind the 8-ball, working at a snail’s pace, or some other inane cliché, it’s possible that it’s not because they’re lazy or apathetic. Sure, don’t rule out that possibility, but maybe leave room for other reasons, reasons that they could probably appreciate a little help with. As for me, I’ll be fine. I have two short films that are nearing completion… yes, it’s the two that I keep rambling on about on this blog. And they’re going to be fucking fantastic. And I’m already in pre-production on another short and prepping yet another, with a feature on the horizon. I’m not sorry.

Two For One

2 for 1 Drink SpecialsIn an effort to catch up for a ton of neglect on this blog, I’m doing a two-for-one… or “2 subjects, 1 post” if you prefer.

One: In cheerful news, Kat Candler’s feature Hellion is premiering tomorrow (June 13) all over the country. This is the film that originated as a six-minute short and was expanded by Kat and Producer Kelly Williams into a shockingly high-profile film starring Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, and newcomer Josh Wiggins. Go see it. Sure, to support indie film, but also to support things that are made with passion and brains and heart.

Two: Back in March, when this was all shaking out, I was hoping to be able to share some exciting news (as well as footage), but as events all too often tend to conspire against anything uncomplicated, I can only really talk about what might have been my involvement in a Bob Mould music video. David Wexler and I did the usual “hands to action stations” routine and within a couple of days managed to organize a shoot around a rare rehearsal by Bob and his band in Austin… during SXSW. Anyone who’s ever attempted anything other than watching movies/bands and drinking beer during this 2-week period, realizes how monumental a task that is. But we pulled it off, and captured some dynamic and striking images; images that ultimately didn’t fit into the video for I Don’t Know You Anymore. As I’m growing pretty weary of talking about projects that “almost happened”, I’ll just leave these here and move on…

Bob MouldJon WursterBob and JasonJason NarducyBob Mould band

Texas Forever

…And while I’m in a SXSW groove, it’s worth finally getting around to heaping some more praise on Kat Candler’s Hellion. This is the film that started several years ago as a short, but has morphed into a critically-acclaimed observation of Southeast Texas rural/metal/bored youth melancholia starring Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis. Within the swirl of the festivities down here, it’s gone somewhat unnoticed that the film has been picked up for theatrical distribution by Sundance Selects and Kat has been signed by ICM Partners. Couldn’t happen to a better film/filmmaker.