The Biden Effect

I’ve just spent the past five days on vacation, although once again my annoying tendency to parse the semantics jumps out from a dark alley and forces me at gunpoint to elaborate on things everyone can easily understand.

I do various things to earn money, which I exchange for goods and services that make my life easier, and in fact possible.  These past five days,  I have not, in fact, earned much money at all.

To over-elaborate even more, I normally would have been free of responsibilities yesterday, and this weekend, so there were only four days.

I had some plans.  I accomplished some of them.  I accomplished other, unanticipated things, like making my son pancakes every morning for breakfast.  He likes pancakes, but it’s not a common thing for me to do.  Just once in a while, when I feel no pressure, I’ll make him breakfast.

But pancakes are easy, and repeating the process over several days simplified everything.  Yesterday the pancakes were very good, for example, and on the table pretty fast.

I didn’t stop there.  I did some lawn work.  I did some exercise.  I tried to watch a movie (I reacted badly to it, on a personal level, so I stopped watching).  I did some of the usual chores.  I thought a lot.

Really, you might have to just call it at the pancakes.  That might have been the highlight of having some time off.

I also seem to have lost my appetite, for the most part, which is a strange thing.  Hasn’t kept me from eating, but I’ve left food on the plate.  I expect some sort of reward for this, too, in a weird way.  As if eating three pieces of pizza and stopping because you’re full and not eating a couple of more because they’re good is at the very least an occasion for applause.

My reduced appetite and a tendency lately to trip over pieces of furniture has led me to suspect I may have early Parkinson’s disease, for some reason.  This is almost positively not the case, but it just seemed like something to wonder about, since I had the time.

That, and why my phone battery seems to be zipping through toward empty at a much higher rate.  Could be something.  Could be time dilation related to free time.  Could be I’m away from my desk more and don’t charge it up a bit as much as I usually do.

Finally, some very exciting things have happened this week.  My son had a good experience in a situation I don’t need to explain.  Other moments of what are surely just serendipity have popped up, leading me to posit that I need to relax more so the universe can grasp what it is I need.

And among these things, the best was saved for, I suppose, the last.

US in Progress, formerly Gotham in Progress,  is a joint initiative between the American Film Festival in Wroclaw and the Champs Elysées Film Festival in Paris.  It is the first and only industry event devoted to US indies in Europe.  Its aim is to present US indie films in post-production to European buyers in order to foster the circulation and distribution of American indie films in Europe.

That’s from this web site, and here’s the gist: Four American independent films in the post-production state, out of the hundreds that are made each year and out of the (maybe again) hundreds submitted to the US In Progress competition, are selected to be screened in Paris at the Champs Elysees Film Festival for a group of European distributors, who most of the time have no awareness of the films that are being made at the independent level here in the States.

And this year – next month, in fact – one of those four American films is “Winning Dad.”  Which, I assume, you’ve heard of.

On June 10th, then, our writer and director, Arthur Allen, will be flown to Paris and hoteled for three days, while our film is screened, presentations are made, meetings are arranged, and just general mingling is accomplished.  What happens next exists only in the realm of the possible, but this is huge.

Huge.  That’s the word I keep using.  Huge.  Or, a BFD as Joe Biden might say.  It’s not only the opportunity, but the fact that there are people who looked at the film in its current state and said, yeah, we want that one.

So, huge.  Exciting.  We are excited.  We went out to dinner with friends last night to sort of celebrate, and also because we just like going out with these friends.

But at some point, and more than one, really, you’ve got to ask yourself: Have I been ignoring the universe?  If so, I should stop that.  And maybe take more time off when I can.  Because shit just got real.

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Change Of Life

We begin day #2 of My Spring Break, having just dropped my wife off at the park and ride, where the rest of the world is GOING TO WORK.  But not I.

What exactly I’m doing is another question, considering that there’s no shortage of doable things, and the current weather pattern is inspiring.  That flower bed?  The lawn that I just mowed?  These are easy chores when it’s 73 degrees and sunny.  I could do this all week.

What I’m really doing, or supposed to be doing, is assembling a series of essays and shorter pieces into something that vaguely resembles a book, in order to produce (wait for it) this book.  There are other reasons to do this, but then we wander into self-actualization and existential questions, and I have no real answers.

But the sun definitely calls me.


My first stop, though, after cleaning up, is an eye exam.  It’s been over two years (at least), and while I haven’t noticed any changes in my vision it’s always been pretty bad; it’s hard to get worse.  It’s partly just one of those things one does (I have a dental cleaning in two weeks, same philosophy), and partly because I’ve mostly been wearing the same type of glasses (aside from an unfortunate period in the mid-1980s, when glasses that covered three-quarters of your face were popular) since I was 14.  Wire frames, in other words, big, little, same.

And styles have changed, and I’m all about style, you know.

But, as it turns out, there are some nice frames out there, sturdier and somehow more adult looking, and maybe it’s time for a switch.

It’s easy to blame this on my daughter, who on a superficial assessment looks like she’s trying to do a major make-over on her father, but let’s think about that.  She’s a new mother.  She works.  She is often left home alone for long stretches, when she has to manage an increasingly mobile baby and the rest of her responsibilities, which recently include landscaping.  She has other things to do than mess with her father’s appearance.

Nope.  She’s a facilitator, is all, one of those special people who can listen to another gripe and bitch about this or that and actually look them in the eye and say, “Then fix it, fool.”  So whining about my clothes led her to suggest that I just try – just try – buying some that were designed at any point after, say, 1985.  First step.

Second step, on this last trip, was more whining about needing to change, after spending months staring at photos and film of my dumb face, which led to a phone call and an appointment with the mysterious , mystical, and oddly appropriately named Lauren Lust, who is sort of a magician.  She doesn’t provoke lust (in me, anyway, but then all 29-year-old women look to me like little girls who made the mistake of growing up; I’m sure she has admirers, and she should), but she appears to be part 21st-century hippie and part a character from “Lord of the Rings.”  One of the elves or fairies or, you know (I only watched the films once).  There’s just something other-worldly about her, and she gave me a haircut, much shorter than I typically wear my hair and possibly shorter than I have since the 5th grade, something I’ve considered but never quite followed up on.  And there you go.

Now all that’s left is some decent shoes, and those new frames, and I’m ready for my close-up.

Which, of course, already happened, last summer.  My next one, then.

In the meantime, there’s this book to build…

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Just Teasing

Here’s three minutes from “Winning Dad,” all post-produced and looking nice.  There’s a reason it’s not ready to be released yet, and that has to do with it looking nice, if you get my drift.  This is awfully expensive, so there’s a link at the end in case you want to contribute.  At any rate, I hope you enjoy.

(Warning: This is a movie about a family with a gay son.  There are two men kissing in this clip, if that sort of thing freaks you out.)


Winning Dad – Sneak Peek from Arcturus Entertainment LLC on Vimeo.

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A special thing happens next week.  Two special things, really.

One, the first footage – sort of a teaser/trailer – from “Winning Dad” will be released.  Fun.

Second, I’m taking a vacation.

Vacations are hard to pin down for me.  In 2007, I just wrote a column and let other income go unproduced for a few months.  It was costly and maybe not as productive a decision as I anticipated, but I felt the need to see what was out there, after decades of doing the same thing here at home, most of it every day.  So there’s that.

But a vacation, in the sense that I have a job (plural, really) and I purposefully take some time off.  The problem with this, of course, is that I don’t get paid.  The problem with that, of course, is that I don’t get time off.  And time off, particularly from certain forms of drudgery I have to indulge in to stay solvent, sometimes feels necessary, even as loose and goosey as my life can feel.

And I have a writing project that needs to get finished, and I keep finding other things to do, then getting wiped out by producing said income…and since I was due to have three official days off next week, I just did some math and found four more to make it an even seven.

There’s no way to anticipate what will happen.  I’m trying to stay away from big goals; I would just like real progress made with no excuses, or the understanding that I need to forget about this and get busy with something else.

And then there are other things, making an eye appointment, seeing some friends, pulling some weeds; I can only write so long every day, and some of those days look to be sunny.

It’s still a weird idea, taking time off.  I don’t feel like I work that hard, but it’s still weird.  And exciting, and a little intimidating.  And then it will be here, and then over, and then we shall see.


“You have to write about this porch,” my daughter said a week ago today, as we sat on her front porch, surrounded by youth and energy.  And so I did.

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Light and Shadow and Babies and Such

I flew into Austin on Monday, April 28, arriving around 5:30pm, really most of a day spent on travel for only a four-hour flight, but there’s no whining here and no alternative, really.  A red-eye probably exists, but probably not nonstop, and then you just end up wasting most of another day being sleepy.  Maybe one day I’ll try flying out at dawn, but that gets tricky when it comes to a ride to the airport.  Maybe I’ll just be grateful that I can be across the country so quickly and leave it at that.

The weather took a remarkable turn here at home for a couple of days while I was gone, but then it was pretty remarkable in Austin, too.  There’s no complaining here; I got plenty of sun and grandson, and as I flew back into what turned out to be one of the wettest May days in history it all just made sense.  There are many different lives, and many different places, and still somehow we manage to love another.  It’s a miracle if you ask me.

As are babies, of course, and this one in particular.  Almost 7 months old, he had a check-up while I was there and comes in at 80th percentile for weight, 80th for head circumference, and 105th for height.  Which I take was a joke.  He’s very long.  One suspects he will be taller than his father and grandfathers, but probably shorter than Shaq.  Then again, somebody had to be Shaq.

Physics is important at this stage of a baby’s development.  Much energy is just potential, waiting.  Little Bix is ready to move, just not quite ready enough.  This makes it important to tie him down sometimes, at least in a high chair or his jumper, or else keep one arm lightly resting on his stomach before he takes a swan dive off the sofa.  Soon enough he’ll be crawling and that’s another ball game, but for the duration of my visit I either sat with him in my lap, hauled his 20 pounds around, or made sure he was secure.

As with all my visits, I have a vague recollection of this age, but very vague.  Gone forever is the time when he stays where you put him  (the golden months) and sleeps all the time.  I pity his parents, a little, for the interior decorating they’re about to undertake to babyproof and solve the mystery of their wood floors.

Otherwise, I had nice trips out of the house with my daughter, a couple of lunches, good food all around, and I took a lot of pictures.

A year or so ago, I bought a Nikon D5100, an entry-level DSLR that has some nice features, and eventually I bought a couple of lenses, a fixed 50mm and a zoom 70-300mm, neither of them expensive but they do the job.

Whether I can do the job is another question, which raises another question about creativity and aptitude and talent, I suppose.  I seem to do better at people than landscapes, but even then that’s mostly me snapping dozens of shots and hoping to get lucky, along with learning as I go along.

As anyone else is, I’m limited mostly by my camera.  I follow the National Geographic photographers on Instagram (@natgeo) and I’m always amazed at the beauty, but then I remember that they’re shooting with $5000 cameras and expensive lenses, along with being experts and artists, etc.

But digital photography is here and ubiquitous, and I’m usually more fascinated with people who seem to have a passion for it, and are trying to create some sort of following and/or vocation with the art.  Since they seem to be the worst ones.

And see?  That sounds mean, and I don’t intend to be mean.  I take better pictures than I used to, but I understand that I have no particular visual talent, no eye for perspective or framing.  Just a nice camera, and a photogenic grandson, and maybe just endurance.  As I say, snap away until something good pops up.

I recognize talent, though, and once again: As I look around the nets and see the photos posted by people who obviously want photography to be thought of as their thing, I don’t see any.  Maybe I have no appreciation; this is very possible.  But most of their pictures bore me.

On the other hand, I see some amazing stuff from the quiet ones.  I know a lady who shoots amazing pictures with an iPhone 4, just stunning and glorious.  That’s talent, I think, or something close, even if she’s just trying to show us how beautiful the beach looked at sunset.

At any rate, some of my favorite pictures from this trip were taken early one morning, as Beth and Bix sat on the front porch, barely caffeinated (her) and not long up, leaving Beth with the feeling that she looked like a frumpy mom-type creature with uncombed hair, so I have to be careful.

The one below, then, is barely acceptable, probably, to my daughter, and not nearly my favorite, but again: We’re not talking talent here.  We’re talking being in the right spot at the right time, and caring about the people in the frame, and pressing a button.  Creativity is something else.  It’s on my mind a lot lately, in fact, but I’ll just leave the picture for now.

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