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Physical goals and stuff, April 2015

In October 2013ish, I was at the gym and we were doing heavy deadlifts. As a lark, I was all, “Fuck it, let’s throw 305 on this thing and give it a go.” I pulled the shit out of that bar and got it off the floor. I remember thinking, Whoa. That was crazy heavy.

Yesterday I pulled 405 lbs.

And today I back squatted 305 lbs for 2.

I am pretty proud of that.

Of course there’s a ton of stuff I have plenty of room to improve on. I can’t run to save my life. My overhead movements are still pretty bad (but getting better). My handstands are pretty wobbly. I can barely chain together a few double-unders at a time. I get pretty psyched out when I see high volume wods. I’m not super great at pushups. My shoulders are tight and inflexible. And there’s probably a bunch more stuff I’m missing right now, but you get the point.

And of course, I can still improve on my deadlift and back squat. Of course!

But that is part of the fun of this whole “reconnecting with the potential of my body” thing I’ve been working on the last few years: seeing how far I can improve. There is no end game, there is only continued learning. And I like that a lot.

Fuck Cancer

A couple months ago, I made this video with Sarah and our friend Heather Cahill to promote a benefit called “Fuck Cancer” which was to raise money for the charity Stupid Cancer. They describe themselves thus:

Stupid Cancer, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is the largest charity that comprehensively addresses young adult cancer through advocacy, research, support, outreach, awareness, mobile health and social media. Our innovative, award-winning and evidence-based programs and services serve as a global bullhorn to propel the young adult cancer movement forward.

Young adult cancer (age 15-39) is largely unknown in the war on cancer with 72,000 new diagnoses each year. That’s one every eight minutes. This is not OK! This neglected group—now millions strong—has limited resources, inadequate support, and, more importantly, a lack of awareness and understanding from the community around them.

Pretty damn good cause. We’ve all known and lost people to cancer, and anything we can all do to turn the tides of the war to our favor is a good thing. Fuck cancer. It sucks ass.

A belated theme for 2015 – Reset

Every year for something like 10 years (with the exception of 2014), I’ve picked a theme to describe my goals for the coming year. It has been a way to approach what I wanted to improve with broad-ish concepts and goals, rather than a set of limited, narrowly focused resolutions. I’ve written about it extensively. Feel free to go back and read some of the old posts for greater clarification on the idea. It’s all there.

With the revamp of the site, I’ve been thinking about what a good theme would be for 2015. Though I’ve missed my usual December announcement by 4 months at this point, it’s my life and I’ll make whatever choices I like. If I think it’s time to declare a theme for 2015 in April of 2015, I will. And you’ll just be fine with that.

A few days ago, a friend of mine wrote something on his Facebook that really clicked with me.

I firmly believe that some of the best writing and creative ideas I’ve ever had have come to me in the late hours of the night, when I’m the closest that I can actually get to being relaxed. Having said that, it’s equally amazing how much simpler the editorial process is in the light of day. Build up at night, rearrange during the day.

He’s totally right. Those wee hours of the night before bed, but after all the day’s chores are done, have always been my most focused, productive hours. The buzz of the day is gone and I am finally tired enough to focus, but not yet so sleepy I can’t think. The world is quiet, even here in New York City, and I can usually get something out in the little bit of time when my brain can actually produce.

In the last few years I haven’t been using those hours the way I used to, mostly, I think, because I got out of the habit of using them. Life changed. Schedules changed. Those nighttime hours became unavailable or filled with other activity. Then when I did have them, I squandered them. I have no regrets, but in retrospect I wonder why when I had a lot of hours to use, I didn’t use them. Of course, it’s very likely I needed to get to the point where it bothered me to see that I could have been using them more productively, instead of barreling forward, mindless of time’s passing, letting them slip away.

I realize that I miss using that time for my personal projects because those hours were the only way I got anything done that kept me feeling sane. And sane is important. Sane makes all the other stress and bullshit of life more easily digestible. For the moments I am pissed off about work, at least I can feel satisfied that I am making things for myself when I can. For all the time I am laden with personal and familial obligations, getting just that little bit of something done for myself is critical. And, even if nothing ever comes of all of this extra I do (and feel I should be doing), keeping me feeling balanced is a very important, very valuable, very real outcome.

I’ve been struggling a lot recently to find a mental/emotional place where I can feel some sort of magical equilibrium, where all the things are more or less balanced and I don’t feel like I am going to explode. The more off-balance I feel, the more I get angry, the more I get resentful, the more I shut off from those around me, and that takes its toll on the rest of my life and relationships. I don’t like harboring those feelings. They make everything a lot worse. I don’t enjoy anything. I don’t sleep. My fuse becomes dangerously short at all times. They make me god damned unpleasant to be around. Yet, those feelings come out in full force when I am out of whack and the only way I’ve ever found to address them is to try and reassert some semblance of order in my life.

That said, 2015 will be…

The Year of Reset.

What’s best is that I’ve already begun. Fantastic.

I intend to get back into the habit of making my personal creative goals a priority. I want to get back to creating things for myself regularly. It doesn’t matter what I make. What matters is that the work I do is for me. I can cut all the extra short films and friends’ projects in the world, but those aren’t mine. I can do all the creative work at my job, but that really isn’t mine. My ideas, my projects, my execution. Simple. Bringing back The Black Laser as both a forum for my work and a work in itself (double dipping, yeah) is a big first step. It’s also a bit of what Sarah would call a commitment device. I feel guilty when the activity here dies down. Avoiding that guilt is often plentiful motivation for me. I won’t always post the things I do, but when I want to post, I’ve got a place that is all my own.

I am not going to make any concrete creative goals for this year, though. In years past, I’ve stated an intended quota of production. 2015 is not for quotas. 2015 is for habit rebuilding. We can discuss quotas for 2016.

I’ve been collecting ideas and scribbles and half-finished thoughts for ages, and I want to see what I can turn them into. There are seeds for a wealth of projects and larger works buried here over the six and a half years of The Black Laser, I just have to nurture them. That means sticking to it. That means sitting down even when I am tired or don’t want to. That means doing the god damned work and not letting anything get in the way, even if my output is minimal. There will be nights when I can’t and many more nights where I feel like I can’t. The former cannot be changed, but the latter can. No excuses. No bullshit.


Join me and this sleepy little butthead for many more nights of cranking out words and thoughts, and, hopefully, we’ll make something beautiful. Or awesome. Or beautifully awesome.

Dead Water Trailer

Above is the trailer for the short film I recently finished with my friends Jesse Allen and Andy Gilchrist. Check it out.

Dead Water is a follow up to Sea Pig, the short we did a few years ago.

The film premieres this Friday at 9 at the 2015 Kansas City Film Festival. If you live in the area, get your butt over there and watch our film (and whatever the hell else is showing). If not, keep your eyes tuned to this site. I’ll be posting it once festival season is over.

City of Golden Shadow… or, Why Am I Still Reading This Book?

After reading the second and third Expanse books back to back, I turned my attention to Tad Williams’ Otherland: City of Golden Shadow. The book had been in my mental queue for a long time, but for this reason or that I never actually read it. As much as I just wanted to read the next Expanse book, I felt like it was probably prudent to give the series a rest for a moment. Enter City of Golden Shadow.

Now, I am about three quarters of the way through it and I have no idea why I am still reading.

The book isn’t bad, exactly, but something about it isn’t grabbing me. Weighing in at about 800 pages, the commitment to reading is no little thing. But there’s something off and I can’t put my finger on it.

I feel like I’m just continuing on with it out of some sense of stubbornness. Like, maybe at some point the book will pick up and start being interesting? I’ve gotten this far, so I should probably just keep going? It has everything is should have to grab my attention: international intrigue! Nefarious plots! Parallel worlds! Science fictiony stuff! Egyptian gods! Murders! Explosions! Little girls who have weird friendships with elderly burn victims! Everything!

But, when it comes time to pull it out of my pocket on the train or get in bed and read, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling “meh”ness, you know? It’s weird.

Life is too short to read bad books. I know that much. There have been plenty of books I’ve gotten into and put down forever after a hundred pages. I’ve tried to read Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow like three times, and just put it down each time because it’s so full of itself trying to impress readers with its cleverness that it fills me with rage. Screw that book. Seriously.

City of Golden Shadow just isn’t bad enough to put down, though. I don’t actively hate it. It’s just not exciting enough, either, that I am ripping through it. It’s stuck in this mental/emotional neutral place for me where I can’t build up the required spite to put it down, but I also don’t give enough of a damn to want to see how it ends up. It’s the kind of book that I could get stuck “reading” for years because I just never spent any time with it. Or, at least, it could be that kind of book if I was the kind of person who could do that sort of thing.

I am also totally willing to posit that my feelings about the book might have absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, but possibly have everything to do with my mental state these days which we’ll diplomatically describe as “rough”. City of Golden Shadow, it might not be you; it might be me. It might still be you, though. I don’t know. Probably not.

At this point, I’m just going to finish the damn thing since I am getting pretty close to the end now, but the chances I read the following three books are pretty low. And that quickly, I’m in the market for something to read after this. Any suggestions?

The Clean Up

In the summer of 2013, I cut “The Clean Up” with my good friend Jesse Allen. The film has done quite well on the festival circuit and was selected by Vice to be part of their short film series, “I’m Short, Not Stupid”.

I am pretty proud of this one. I think Jesse did an excellent job creating a succinct, tight short film that manages to make you laugh and make you think. A great short film is just one single idea examined simply with intelligence and style. “The Clean Up” has that. Plus, the edit was painless. It is nice to work with someone who you sync with on such an essential creative level that creating something isn’t like pulling teeth.

Watch the film. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Welcome to The Black Laser 3.0!

I am proud to announce the launch of the newest version of The Black Laser. If you’re not familiar with the site’s previous design, this is a significant overhaul from the previous, now-very-dated design.

No more fixed-width design!

Now scalable to a multitude of devices and resolutions!

No more white text on a black field!

New logo!

Still quite a lot of pink!

Expect some noodling to take place over the next few weeks as I settle into the new theme and identify things I’ve forgotten or missed. Such is the nature of these sorts of things.

For those of you interested, this is the first time I’ve used a child them in WordPress to customize. Previously, you had to manually edit a theme to make changes to it. That seems like a very direct, sensible way to alter something, and it is. However, if an update is released for the theme you’re using, all your edits are overwritten. That sucks. To avoid that business, you have to carefully update the updated theme to match and that is a royal pain in the butt with lots of opportunities for mistakes to creep in.

With a child theme (new since the last time I redesigned the site back in 2011), you create a dependent theme to which you make changes that references the original (parent) theme. That way you can update the base theme without losing your changes.

You don’t care at all about that, but I think it’s pretty neat and this is my website so deal.

If you want to read about my plans for the future here, just scroll down. Or click here. Whatever’s easiest for you. You’re probably a grown up.

I have some more stuff in store that I did not write about below so you will just have to wait and see!

Hello, The Black Laser? Are you there?

How’s it going, old friend? It’s been a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this site recently. The Black Laser has been sitting here, untouched, for more than a year and that seems like a real shame to me. Over the years I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this site. It’s been a repository for my rambling thoughts, a place to promote whatever random projects I’ve been working on, a place where I shared crap from the internet that I was really enjoying.

But life and work conspired to distract me from keeping the pace up here. As I moved forward in my career, the amount of headspace at the end of the day to write and be creative diminished. Then I got married and the extra hours I used to spend staring at the new post page on the WordPress backend shifted to being spent with my super rad wife. These are non-problem problems, obviously. The root of the matter is that the hours I used to spend digging around and writing here are different now. I am different now. That’s what happens. I opened The Black Laser in November 2008 and here we are in March 2015 thinking about an old friend we haven’t spoken to in a while. It doesn’t need to be that way. The Black Laser isn’t dead. It has just been sleeping for a while.

Ultimately, it feels like a true tragedy to let The Black Laser drift off into some sort of pathetic oblivion, yet another untended to blog clogging up the tubes. I don’t want to do that. I like to think you don’t want to do that. So let’s not let that happen.

Here are the things I think need to change to breathe some new life into this place.

It needs a new design.

We’ve been using TBL2.0 since 2011. That is basically forever in internet time. Forever!! The theme is old and no longer standards-compliant. In 2011 when redesigning this place I was not at all worried about whether or not the site read well on a smart phone. Who read things on smart phones? Steve fucking Jobs? Not me. Well, that has changed completely. Everybody reads everything on their smart phones and tablets and thingies and thingers. Time to get with the now.

Also this white type on black background shit has got to go. What was I thinking?

The type and quality of posts need to change.

As fun as it was to post random music videos and whatever back in the day, there are better ways to get and share that sort of content now. Those posts were easy, cheap ways to keep the post count moving upward, and it was always nice to have a backlog of cool crap I could unleash at folks. But I don’t need that. In retrospect, those posts really watered down the effectiveness of this site as a device for sharing brain pieces. They are a nice little break from things you actually have to read, but only once in a while. They were too frequent. A crutch for not thinking of real content.

Additionally I no longer take very many photos. They were a big part of this site once, but there is little reason to stay set-up to share them easily since I no longer need to share things I am not creating. I might start taking photos again one day in the future, but not soon. I’ve got a lot of feelings about the photo thing which I am happy to explore in a later post in more depth. Not here.

A refocus on the purpose for The Black Laser.

As alluded above, The Black Laser serves a few real purposes.

  1. To keep me writing.
  2. As a sort of public journal.
  3. To share the things I am working on.

These have always been the backbone of the site, even when I didn’t have much to share in any of the categories. This is the content I want to focus on. While thinking about the future of this site, I’ve been calling TBL3.0 the TL;DR version of the site: lots of text, way fewer videos and filler posts, fewer posts in general, but (hopefully) higher quality in the stuff I do post. More words! Better posts! Surprises! It is going to be super great.

The Black Laser makes me feel good. Time spent making things here never feels poorly spent. Most of the quiet times of the past 6 and a half years were spent thinking of things to share. That is a lot of time over a lot of years. And I finally feel ready to come back to it and fill your eyeballs with my words. No, that’s not quite right. “Fill” is too passive of a verb.

I am going to force my words into your brain and you are going to love it.