iStress

iStress

I just took a iPower walk.

To be frank, I’ve been on the brink of total seam unravelment. I’ve been overworking myself, dealing with personal stuff, and trying like mad to set the stage for future (and total) self-employment. Apart from my day job, the book work, the screenplay work, the photography work, the gym, the social life (which oddly has still been happening), and the rest of life, my soul is threatening to twist into a double knot.

This all is otherwise known as stress. We all experience it, and while it isn’t always avoidable, it should always be controllable.

For me, it usually isn’t. My brain won’t shut off. I wake up at 2:00 AM and don’t fall back asleep until just before my alarm goes off at 6:40. I go to the gym, but my workouts suck, because I’m too tired. Then, I worry about being tired and not being able to fall asleep (again), and sometimes this cycle continues until I come home from my day job one night, eat dinner, and crash right away. People say, “But the sun’s still out!” when I tell them I’m going to bed.

What is an iPower walk, then, and why does it help? Well, thanks to Steve Jobs, I have an iPhone on me at all times, and that iPhone has all my favorite music on it. Today, I was at my day job, about to burst (it was actually busy, and I also was dealing with book-related stuff at the same time), and I decided to take a spontaneous walk with Eminem and Lady Gaga.

I listened to only three tracks –”Not Alone” by Eminem twice, “Edge of Glory” by Gaga once, “Not Alone” a second time, then Gaga again for a round of “Hair.” If you know those songs, you know they’re power songs.

It’s always a surprise when I realize the art of someone I find amazing can lift me up, open my eyes, and make me realize once again that I’m part of something much bigger than myself, than my work, than all the little colors I paint my life with. I’m guessing it’s the same for anybody who experiences bursts of inspiration, regardless of the subject, reason, industry, or whatever. The brilliant people of the world–and I firmly believe everybody can have brilliant moments–share themselves. Those who want to be receptive can then embrace that offering and allow it to move them.

There’s no cure for stress like a fresh blast of inspiration—perhaps something that reminds you why you made certain life choices in the first place (at least the good ones).

For me, it’s experiencing work by people who have made it in the creative business. In a few month’s time, I will be holding The Breeders in my hands, in book form. It will be complete with exterior art, interior art, and a lovely ISBN bar code—the result of two full years’ worth of constant brain work, lack of sleep, and crazy life lessons. Stamped in it, invisible, will be the work of more artists than I can list here—heaps more than just the two I mentioned above. I wouldn’t be able to find joy in this work if I didn’t have people to look up to and measure my passion against. Peaking through their keyholes of life and allowing what I see to change me.

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It All Ends

It All Ends

I just spent the last hour trying to write a post about Harry Potter, chronicling my experience over the past ten years and sharing just why oh why it was so special to me. But the post didn’t work. It fell flat. It was so utterly personal that there was no possible way I could fit in all the details and make it matter to anyone else—not by a long shot. Upon munching on my chicken breast, peppers, and zucchini (cooked, raw, and raw—and actually sort of enjoyable together), I realized something special:

My Harry Potter experience was my own.

Anyone who has read the books and experienced the movies in tandem over the past decade can say the same thing. The story meant different things to different people—sometimes in ways that were life changing, other times in ways that were nothing more than afterthoughts. But one thing is certain:

This story did change the world, and we were lucky to be around when it did.

Not only did it speak to the hearts of millions of people from all different walks of life, but it also became a pillar of unity on a planet so often torn apart by difference. Perhaps even more important is that it tackled this key human dilemma head on and gave us heroes who stood up for what was right, just, and true.

Harry Potter was powerful enough to inspire human-to-human conversations in crowded airport security queues, bring strangers together for insane midnight book release parties, and inspire collective cheers from fans around the world who watched it together on the big screen—either literally or in spirit. It helped countless people feel like—and be—part of something truly magical.

To J.K. Rowling and all the agents, editors, lawyers, marketers, film producers, Warner Brothers executives, directors, cinematographers, set designers, actors, film editors, sound editors, sound designers, composers, and everyone else in between:

THANK YOU.

 
 
The Good Stuff

The Good Stuff

It’s Oscar season again! Which means it’s also the time of year I ponder just why the hell does art matter, anyway?

I love the Oscars. I usually cry one to five times throughout the crazily rehearsed and orchestrated ceremony, despite the underlying politics and ridiculous lavishness. Every year, I wonder to myself, “Why is all this justified? When so much suffering and crap is happening in the world, why is it okay for us to take time to give a darn about silly celluloid (digital) fluff?”

Well, my answer balloons into something much bigger than Hollywood (and Wellywood!) can account for.

After 9/11, the Oscars ceremony was a sufficiently somber event, and it opened with Tom Cruise delivering a speech in remembrance of those lost on that awful day. But then, he said something that always resonated with me. It was a question, followed by an answer: “Should we celebrate the joy and magic movies bring? Dare I say it? More than ever.”

If we can forget the horrible fact that Moulin Rouge! did not win Best Picture that year, it remains one of my favorite ceremonies ever (let’s not forget it was also the year of The Fellowship of the Ring). Ten years later, I still think about it, and again, I wonder, why does any of it matter? This year, we can ask the same thing. Libya is in shambles, and there are still bodies buried in rubble in my dear sweet city of Christchurch, New Zealand. But those are just the recent CNN headlines. There’s more badness out there. A lot more.

The question of celebrating art and creativity during such times is a question I take very personally and seriously, because I have chosen to pursue a career (a life, really) in this arena. I spend most of my spare time sitting in my hovel or at Starbucks working on novel writing. I have one book out on submission and seven more dripping from my head onto the page. None of it is real; the stories are all made up; it’s all for fun and entertainment, really—mostly for myself, and hopefully someday for others. It’s no different with movies, which I also love writing and making (not enough, as of late).So, what is the point? Well, I think the vast majority of people in this country read books and watch movies strictly as entertainment and forget about the creative process that goes into them. Even the worst books and movies had to be written and produced. But think of the good books, the good movies. Think of the effort it took for J.K. Rowling to so brilliantly weave together the Harry Potter series. Think of all the different people it takes to create a film: the director, screenwriter, cinematographer, actors, gaffers, grips, set designers, set decorators, costume designers, script supervisors, editors, gophers, composer—it’s crazy, really! They’re all there to serve a creation, a work of good or bad art, that will then go out into the world and tirelessly try to gain an audience. In the film industry, the above people are not the corporate executives interested solely in the bottom line; they are the ones who are there because they find value in it (ideally, anyway). But, again, what value is there in any of this?

For me, the value is the human spirit. The drive to create. The celebration of the fact that art is a positive force in the world. That humanity doesn’t just have to destruct itself, it can also share itself and inspire. We can create products out of nothing that change lives, that spark dreams, that promote hope.

Jurassic Park changed my life when I was nine, Stephen King did the same for me about three years later, and then came Harry Potter, which is probably the reason I’m sitting here writing today. Woops, we can’t forget The Lord of the Rings (film trilogy), which inspired me to travel to New Zealand, where I found a home and made lifelong friendships.

It isn’t the beauty of a movie shot or a slice of perfect editing or a moment of brilliant acting that makes me cry during a movie; it’s the fact that somebody made that shot, edit, or brilliant acting moment happen in the first place. The fact that inspiration seemingly brought it out of nowhere and has now made me, a totally unrelated human, get tingles of epicality.

Not all important things in the world are bad. Art is a positive force. It is not just our human footprint but also a glimpse of the collective spirit that animates us. Whether you call it divine or simply a fluke of nature, that spirit is what keeps humanity going. It’s the thing that inspires people to help others out of earthquake rubble or rise up against injustice. It’s also what will make each and every one of us worthy of being remembered after our fleeting dalliance with life is over.

It’s nice taking time to appreciate the good things. For some people, that means sports. For others, that means good food, gardening, or even polishing their cars. For me, every year in February, it’s the movies—the lights, camera, and action that have so often created or inspired definitive moments in my life.

Why wouldn’t I want to celebrate?!

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Epicality: A Definition

Epicality: A Definition

People who know me know that I use the word “epicality” a lot. Most of the time, upon first hearing it, they give me a confused, “WTF, who even are you?” type look. And then I have to explain it.

So, what is epicality? It is a word I “made up” in ninth grade. Here are three fast and homemade photo illustrations examples, with explanation:

The moment this woman saw the thing that would change her life forever. Perhaps the sky is splitting open to reveal an alternate universe. A host of unexplainable objects. A wormhole. The magic that happens when imaginary stuff—if even just for a moment—feels real.

The first time this stunning creative achievement sat on my book shelf, complete, on July 21, 2007. These books are rife with epicality, to be sure, but the fact they even exist is why they are pictured here today.

The joy of a grandfather holding his first grandson (and my dear little nephew) for the first time. This is real life epicality, the strongest, most potent kind.

In my own words?

Epicality is that which gives a person tingles—the kind you can’t explain, the kind that make you feel as if you’re glimpsing something bigger.

So, there you have it. Epicality. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

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