Old Hollywood on the page

A well-written biography is the intersection between life, story and truth – my three absolute favorite things. To follow someone’s journey through their whole life, their highs and lows, regrets and lessons learned, is a very intimate thing. And unlike fictional stories, it feels more intimate because it is all true. Sure, they can’t all be gems, and it’s up for debate whether the fault lies with writer or subject, but the really good ones – oh gosh. It really is like gaining a friend. You come to know this person. You laugh with them at their silly stories, you read the poignant moments over and over, marvel at their perfection, and ultimately, you cry when they die, no matter how rich and wonderful a life. Mainly, because it was so rich and wonderful.

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In October I went to Hollywood for a few days to hang out with my favorite girls – Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney – and I took a tour of the Warner Bros lot to get the feel of a historic film studio. The tour was fun but it focused mainly on current sitcoms, which I don’t really watch. I’m in full-on research mode for my next project and I’m devouring old Hollywood biographies like they were oxygen. The amount of love found in the writing of these books is astonishing. It’s radiating off the page. I’ve never come across more richly crafted characters. I find myself not wanting to finish the books because I don’t want to say goodbye. I dread it because I know I won’t find another book with these characters – because they’re not characters at all, just a bunch of artists who lived in a crazy place called Hollywood 60-to-90 years ago.

hollywoodsignpolaroid Continue reading Old Hollywood on the page

Terrorize this

Can we just take a moment to appreciate the irony of all the world’s leading governments  “taking a stand against terrorism” by launching the most massive surveillance apparatus the world has ever seen. And the perpetual warfare in countries with vastly different cultures than the West and victory is only declared when the countries more or less resemble the Western ideal of the corporate state. And if that’s not bad enough, how about those flying killing machines called drones that they like to launch over countries not even declared war upon, making sure that for every civilian killed, 20 more revenge-bent “terrorists” pop up. And let’s not forget about the West’s own citizens, in their desire to protect us against dark boogeymen, every ounce of privacy awarded us through the ages are wiped out in less than a decade “for our own protection”.

Hey, sociopaths in charge, guess what? Living has always come with certain risks. One of them is death from unexpected events. Like falling in the shower. Or getting shot by your gun-crazy neighbor. These things happen. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your neighbor, or the shower, is conspiring against you. That just means they are careless and/or morons. Considering that dying at the hands of terrorists in a Western country is smaller than the chance of getting struck by lightning, maybe there is some disproportionate use of resources we need to discuss here. Unless of course, this isn’t about terrorists with 30 year old Kalashnikovs and spotty internet connection at all.

Continue reading Terrorize this

So fucking special

I think my life would be a lot easier if I wasn’t obsessed with truth. Truth in all things. I badger the people I love about getting to the bottom of things – why did you do that, why do you think that, why, why, why.

Sometimes it feels inevitable that my life took this turn. A writer asks questions. A writer tries to make sense of human nature. And what bigger question is there than who runs the world – who creates reality?

In no way do I think I am unique in asking these questions. I think a lot of people do, and I think that’s why all these ‘truther’ movements are popping up. As marketing and image-obsession increasingly seep into all aspects of our lives, people are eventually bound to start craving truth, honesty and beauty, which all used to be found in art. But even art is an endless marketing campaign now. Maybe it always was, who knows.

So then the artist turns to reality – how can I shatter these walls around me? How can I make a space that is bigger and more free?

Continue reading So fucking special

This changes everything

Naomi Klein is a pretty cool lady. She is a Canadian writer and activist, and every seven years she releases a book that becomes the defining talking point of the time and creates waves of social awakening. In her 2000 book No Logo she investigates the dark side of global unfettered capitalism and how we are all walking billboards for mega-corporations now, unable to separate ourselves from the products we buy. Combined with rising inequality worldwide and a second depression looming on the horizon, capitalism will eventually cannibalize itself when workers no longer can afford to buy the products they are making for scraps and pennies.

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In 2007, Klein coined the term ‘disaster capitalism’ and released The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The book retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman’s free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement’s peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq. naomi-klein-quote3It’s the same old disheartening tale of superpowers; create a conflict, then bomb for peace and in the chaotic after-match among a traumatized and displaced population more concerned with survival than anything else, the superpowers swoop in to privatize the sovereign nation’s natural resources and banks for multinational corporations. This is not a new thought, per se, but with Klein’s book the concept went mainstream and all of a sudden it was a little bit easier to understand the world we found ourselves in during the first decade of the new millennium.

And this week Klein released her third blockbuster This Changes Everything. She is talking, of course, of climate change. It is the natural conclusion of all her previous talking points. What I like about Naomi Klein’s long books (500+ pages!) is that she is always going for the ‘why’. Just documenting what happened historically isn’t enough, she wants to understand the motives behind it, in this case, rampant capitalism that places profit over all else. She puts decisions into historical context that is so often forgotten today (hindsight is 20/20, remember?) Klein also understands that climate change and global inequality go hand in hand, and her solution in this book is that if we fix climate change and remove ourselves from a fossil fuel economy in favor of an economy based on de-centralized renewable energies, we also solve the inequality crisis that is threatening to wipe us all out before the environment does.

Watch part of her interview on Democracy Now today:

And I hope you will take part in the world’s largest mobilization for climate this weekend! Marches and rallies will be held all over the world. Find yours here.

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Will the 3D revolution be sustainable?

 

Are you excited about 3D printing? I sure am. As I continue to peel back the layers of what is cultural integration and what is actually natural laws of being alive, I find so many absurdities among our current mindset. Why is it that a handful of people “own” the world’s oil supply that we all depend on to survive? They weren’t around 200 million years ago when all that stuff got made and, as far as I can tell, their maximum life span is 100 years, same as the rest of us. They are no more or less special than anyone else, except they have the arrogance to assume they can own a large chunk of a life sustaining planet on which they are only visitors. And now they are trying to buy the planet’s fresh water supply, too, with the absurd commodity called “money”, which may be the most useless object in the world, when you really think about it. Old, bacteria-ridden crumbled pieces of dirty cotton. Good luck trying to drink that!

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But as long as this group of people remain powerful in our minds, they will remain powerful in the physical world, too. I certainly don’t see a way to overthrow this diseased system in my lifetime. Maybe in a couple of hundred years, when our minds are more evolved. If we live that long, of course, although I’m sure no matter what happens with climate change, some of our species will survive.

Welcome to the world of an environmentalist. It may look like a pretty bleak place to reside, but I actually find it the opposite. With the impending collapse (financial, societal, or environmental, or most likely, a combo) all but certain, it really frees your mind to think  in radical new ways. Or old ways, as they were. Indigenous tribes all over the world have historically always considered themselves visitors in this world and the idea that man could own nature was absurd to them.

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To own something is supposed to equal security. To firmly know, in the eyes of gods and men, that this piece belongs to me is really just another way to ward off the inevitable – death. To know that you have a safe place to farm, sleep and live must have been so reassuring to those living thousands of years ago. It increased the chance to live and procreate, and to see your children grow up. And the world was endless, with plenty of space for everyone to grow and multiply. The world is not like that anymore. The world is full and we designed systems of haves and have nots. This system is not a natural law, but we pretend it is because how else could we, the haves, sleep at night. When I was little and I asked my mom, “Why do people starve in Africa?” she told me what most parents tell their kids, “I don’t know. That’s just the way it is.” Well, I’m grown up now and I call bullshit. Continue reading Will the 3D revolution be sustainable?

Your story matters

Who else is feeling like the world just imploded this summer? Gaza, Syria, Iraq, America’s reentry into Iraq, so many refugees, an endless stream of people with nowhere to go… every place is “full” and the money supply is always dwindling as the 0.1% keep stuffing their secret bank accounts with more billions each month.

And it’s all there, right in our face on social media. It’s exhausting just to keep up with all the senseless suffering. But then I had this thought. What if social media is eventually going to put a stop to all this? When enough people have had enough and join together in a massive show of civil disobedience of this bullshit system of war and profit over people and peace. Wouldn’t that be something. Soon, everyone under 20 won’t know a world without social media. Soon, it will be impossible to justify war when its true face is in our face every single day.

Stories have the power to change the world.

One visionary photographer, Brandon Stanton, was recently unemployed when he began to  take street portraits of strangers in the summer of 2010. Armed with his camera, he began crisscrossing the city, covering thousands of miles on foot, all in an attempt to capture New Yorkers and their stories.  The result of these efforts was a vibrant blog he called “Humans of New York,” in which his photos were featured alongside quotes and anecdotes.

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It’s an incredible project, and it’s more than just photos. Every day, millions of Facebook users are introduced to a handful of strangers, along with some of their most intimate secrets and stories. When you follow the page long enough, you begin to see what a revolutionary idea this is because it makes you understand, on a molecular level, that every single person alive is fighting their own struggle and that their moments of sadness and joy may not be felt across the world, but once they are put out there, they resonate with hundreds of thousands of people across the world. And that’s never really happened before, not as intimate, not as instantaneous, as it is now on social media.

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Last week, in partnership with the United Nations, Brandon set out on a “world tour” to capture photos and stories of people outside New York. He started in Iraq and his posts so far have been heartbreaking and sensational. Because Brandon holds a very rare currency these days – the internet’s trust – and when he shows us stories from refugees, in their own words, of fear, love, despair and courage, we listen. We feel. We become connected. And that’s the only thing that can make this bleak present become a brighter future, globally.

This is one of the stories he posted today.

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“The fighting got very bad. When I left Syria to come here, I only had $50. I was almost out of money when I got here. I met a man on the street, who took me home, and gave me food and a place to stay. But I felt so ashamed to be in his home, that I spent 11 hours a day looking for jobs, and only came back to sleep. I finally found a job at a hotel. They worked me 12 hours a day, for 7 days a week. They gave me $400 a month. Now I found a new hotel now that is much better. I work 12 hours per day for $600 a month, and I get one day off. In all my free hours, I work at a school as an English teacher. I work 18 hours per day, every day. And I have not spent any of it. I have not bought even a single T-shirt. I’ve saved 13,000 Euro, which is how much I need to buy fake papers. There is a man I know who can get me to Europe for 13,000. I’m leaving next week. I’m going once more to Syria to say goodbye to my family, then I’m going to leave all this behind. I’m going to try to forget it all. And I’m going to finish my education.” (Erbil, Iraq)

Everyone we know is brokenhearted

I think Joshua Ellis just made my blog obsolete with this amazing, somber, absolutely human post. Please, please read it. I also think, whenever I get down in the future, I will just go back and read this and spare everyone my take on contemporary sadness. Not that everyone’s pain isn’t valid, it is just so… the same. Without further ado, go read: Everyone I know is brokenhearted.

Stories we tell ourselves

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