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Tag: 2010

School of Seven Bells’ “I L U”

Between revisions today, I was listening to School of Seven Bells new album Ghostory (thoughts soon), and then wondered why I had never sought out any of their music videos. It’s weird because “I L U” from 2010’s Disconnect From Desire was hands-down my favorite track of the year. It’s just so damn catchy but also really pretty. I still really like it.

Well, a quick Yotubs search turned up the official video for the song. Here it is, nearly a year and a half after I wrote about how much I love this track. The video is really good too, even if I think the papier-mâché marionettes are incredibly creepy. It has all the things I like in music videos: simplicity, strength of concept, and beauty. It’s touching AND terrifying. “Awwwww, the dude and the chick are in love and they’re going at it! OH MY GOD THOSE CORPSE MARIONETTES ARE FUCKING EACH OTHER AND, HOLY LIVING FUCK, IT’S REACHING IN AND PULLING THE HEART OUT OF THE OTHERONE!!!!!

Great work all around.

The Theme for 2012

It is that time of year again! Time to announce the coming year’s theme! And I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for me to have an excuse to ramble on wildly about my musings about creativity and my own personal journey with it. I know you all love it. Or at least the three of you who read these don’t completely hate it. So, that’s good.

In previous years, the themes have been The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories (2009), The Year of 3 Music Videos and 12 Short Stories (2010), and, this year, The Year of 12 Projects (and Slowing My Roll) (2011). Of course, in previous years I had other themes—The Year of Trying New Things, The Year of Writing, The Year of Focus, The Year of Finishing Things, and The Year of Self-Care—but those have not been documented here on The Black Laser, so we’ll mostly ignore them for the purposes of this one-sided discussion. If you’d like to read more on my thoughts on previous years’ themes, go right ahead.

This year, The Year of 12 Projects, has been remarkably successful so far with 13 of my 12 projects completed at this point. I won’t go too much into my thoughts about the year as a whole yet—I’m saving that for its own year-end write up—but let’s just agree that it’s been great. And let’s also acknowledge that it’s the first time ever that I’ve met the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

Wait, that bears repeating. It is the first time in eight years of giving myself themes instead of resolutions that I’ve actually accomplished what I set out to do.

Holy shit.

Amazing!

I think a lot of what made this year such a success was that I allowed my brain to sort of go anywhere in terms of being creative. I wasn’t limited to one specific type of thing. I could do whatever caught my fancy, and, in turn, I got a lot done. That is great. In fact, a posting I recently read at NPR’s blog about Leonardo da Vinci’s to-do list seems to reinforce that allowing your brain to wander, to be unfocused, is beneficial for getting things done. Not that I am da Vinci, but I seem to have stumbled upon the same results. It goes against years of myself trying to focus on one thing, one goal, one idea. No wonder I was never able to do a damned thing; I worried so much about being focused, driven, single-minded about my creativity that I limited what I could be accomplishing otherwise. Knowing that I do better when I let myself be free is rather refreshing, actually.

While thinking about what I wanted to accomplish for 2012, I recognized that part of my creative palette that I have been really missing this last year and a half or so is my writing. I haven’t written any fiction at all in ages. Do you, avid reader of The Black Laser, recall the last time I posted fiction here? No you don’t. Do you know why? Because it was January 28, 2010. That is terrible. A couple (few?) weeks ago I tweeted, “Do you remember when I used to write stories??? Whatever happened to that, huh??” I wrote it as sort of a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is actually kind of sad. For something that was so important to me that I was going to give up a decent career twice for it, how could it have fallen so far out of my life that the last time I wrote anything of consequence was in January of last year? It’s like having a really awesome girlfriend and then suddenly you stop talking to her at all and then 20 months later you’re all, “Hey, where did she go?? How did she get away from me????” And then after you recognize that you’re all, “Damn, I’d better do something about this because I really miss her.”

And that is what writing feels like to me: an amazing supportive relationship with its ups and downs and pitfalls and triumphs. It has always felt so much more real to me than my ventures into filmmaking or photography or drawing or animation any of the other things I’ve dabbled in. Writing is challenging and because it is challenging it is rewarding like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It feels good and it hurts and it is scary and I love it. I mean, duh, obviously, look at how I get going on things like this when I give a damn about them. I’m just blah blah blahing all up and down the East River like a crazy man with a garbage bag for a hat.

So that brings us to this year’s theme:

The Year of Writing

A question remains: how do I reconcile the success I had when I let my brain wander with the desire to focus on one specific kind of output? I thought of this, too. I think the key lies in not forcing “writing” to be any one thing, but allowing it to take whatever form I think I want to mess around with at that moment.

The astute reader will notice that this is in fact my second Year of Writing, the previous one being an abortive effort before I had any sense of how to structure these things for maximum efficacy. But I know how to do that now and that means giving myself limits that allow me to be flexible. Funny, right? Limits that allow me to be flexible. But it’s true and it works. Full open-endedness is daunting, but limit the creative sandbox a little and you’ll be surprised what you can come up with. Creativity is problem solving. Give yourself problems to solve.

So what are my limits/goals for this year?

  • 100,000 words – While chit-chatting with Lindsey on the IMs about what my goals should be for this year I recalled that at my peak output, I was writing at least 500 words a day. If I could maintain that every day of the year, my output would be 182,500 words. A massive amount. But I am not going to be so unrealistic and believe that I am actually going to write every single day of the year. Let’s don’t be ridiculous. There are going to be nights where I’ll have my face buried in the computer doing nothing but fucking off on the internet and nights where I am stuck at work late and nights where I just won’t want to write. And 100,000 is a nice, round number.

    What counts toward my 100,000 word count? Anything: letters to my brain, long articles on The Black Laser about whatever, anything for Vox Critica, any fiction, screenplays (who knows???). Basically anything where I give a damn about the quality of the writing. This encompasses quite a lot of what I do and should make hitting 100K for the year not such a daunting challenge. The only things that won’t count are when I’m bullshitting about music videos (unless I actually have something to say, my prerogative) and things like Twitter/Facebook/whatever. I mean, this thing is already 1200 words long. I’d only need to do 84 posts like this and I’d be done.

  • Dance EP – I’ve been talking about making a dance record for a long time. I love dance music. It’s so stupid and fun but can also be really beautiful in the right hands. Those hands are not mine, but that doesn’t stop from wanting to put my own music out there. And it fits under the header of “writing” quite nicely and is so different than writing words that it allows me to play around in a different medium but still be working toward my theme for the year. It will allow my brain to wander when I don’t have anything particularly meaningful to say otherwise.

    What constitutes a Dance EP? Well, as we all know an EP is longer than a single but shorter than an album, so like 3 to 5 songs. I think that is about right. I just want it to be a fun project that makes people want to move and shake their asses and do all that stupid shit that people do that makes them look really funny in photos.

There you have it. 2012, The Year of Writing. 100,000 words or whatever and a dance EP.

And if you think that I think about this stuff too much, I’ll just leave this little snippet of yesterday’s conversation here for you to enjoy.

The Space Pope
4:39 PM The year I did 50 short stories, I kept a word/story count by each date I finished one so I could graph the work.
4:39 PM Jeez, I think about this too much maybe. But whatever.
4:40 PM I could keep a spreadsheet of writing by wordcount/type/date

lfkaufman
4:40 PM You think about most things too much. :)

Now I’ve blown my little secret that I intend to graph my progress. Here’s to 2012!

School of Seven Bells’ “I L U”

Now that 2010 is behind us, I can safely say that “I L U” by School of Seven Bells is the best song of the year in my not-so-humble opinion. Check it.

Now listen to it again. Ok. Now again. Now tell me you don’t love it. If you don’t, you’re wrong. I think it is just fantastic. I’m not even going to bother some lengthy explanation of what I like about it. Just enjoy it and recognize that no one wrote a song better than this last year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Theme for 2011

After the unmitigated disaster that was my Theme for 2010, it’s time to reevaluate the way I intend to approach 2011. But first, let’s explore what I set out to do for 2010 and where I think everything went wrong because, without exaggeration, everything went wrong.

The thing you’ll notice first when looking over at the tally for the year in the right hand column is that I accomplished basically nothing of what I intended at this time last year. My grand plans to write something substantial every single month AND make three music videos fell right through the floor. Whose fault is that? Mine, of course. But, the other question is am I upset about it? Nope. Not at all.

Where was all the work? It was there, but not in the places I intended. 2010 was a very busy year for me professionally and with other personal projects. As it turned out, I engaged in a ton of projects through the year.

What the hell did I spend all year doing? Well, I cut a film, 6 other videos, a bunch of commercials, I took the whole summer off, I moved out of my old apartment and adjusted to life as a single man, I traveled around the country, I reconnected with old friends, I made new friends, I made music, I partied way too much, and who knows what else. The bottom line is that I was busy busy busy and I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

So, I didn’t get the things done I wanted to get done this year, but in the face of a major shift in my life, I was able to accomplish a number of other things. I feel good about how 2010 turned out overall and have no complaints. Sure, in retrospect I could have slowed my roll a little bit and gotten more done, but I needed to get it out of my system too. I also think that the important part about the theme is not that I make something specific, but that I make something no matter what it is. The idea is to be creatively active, engaged, making things.

The theme for 2011 will be…

The Year of 12 Projects (and Slowing My Roll)

What does this entail? Simple. For each month of the year I will do something creative that requires more than one sitting. It’s not going to be one-per-month to allow for me to do 2 at once or skip a month if needed, but as there are 12 months in the year, so will I walk into 2012 with 12 projects finished. What the scope or nature of these projects will be I cannot say. The only requirement is that they are creative. It could be anything. Right off the bat, I am thinking of redesigning The Black Laser, getting josephdillingham.com up and running, a short story set in OUTER SPACE!!!!, some music, a music video for my friend Mandy, and whatever the hell else my brain comes up with. Make make make.

The other half of the theme is to slow my roll. If you don’t understand what I mean, it can be boiled down to two words: party less. I’ve gone a little nuts this year and it’s taking its toll on me. It’s been the default mode for me this year. When I don’t have anything to do, I go out. Bad news. I need to figure out ways to entertain myself that don’t end with an empty wallet and a scarred liver. Common sense, I think. Besides, I have some trips planned for later this year and it would be nice to be able to afford them.

There it is. Look out for posts tagged “The Year of 12 Projects”. When the first one is done, I will make a new box on the right. Or I won’t. Wouldn’t you like to know?!?!

Happy 2010, Black Laserites.

It’s 2010 (say it with me, TWENTY-TEN) and nothing seems to have blown up yet so I feel like we’re probably set for our fair share of amazing discoveries, tragedies, delights, horrors, celebrity deaths, and whatever the hell else awaits us in this yet young year.

Juli and I spent our New Year’s Eve at home since she was ill enjoying Sci-Fi Channel’s Twilight Zone Marathon and District 9. Both were awesome. There was not a single woo on our New Year’s Eve, but that’s all right. Next year.

The next morning we broke our 2010 fast with cranberry orange muffins and coffee from my favorite coffee place on earth.

So, what does 2010 mean?

It means to me that the Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories is officially over and that the Year of 3 Music Videos and 12 Finished Short Stories has begun. Expect a wrap up post within a few days.

It also means that the Hunter application is due at the end of this month. Don’t think I’ve not been thinking about it.

But, most importantly, it means we’re officially less than a decade away from Blade Runner, which means flying cars, androids, giant corporate pyramids in downtown LA, and battles in space. I am totally ready for it. How about you?

The Theme for 2010

After much thinking, I’ve decided on my theme for 2010 (twenty-ten, say it with me). It’s a hybrid of two themes I discussed in my previous post on the subject. I hereby announce that 2010 shall be…

The Year of 3 Music Videos and 12 Finished Short Stories

I figure that I will be better served by endeavoring on a cross-disciplinary path, much as I was this year by making photos and writing stories. It allows me not to get too caught up in just one mode. If I am feeling stuck I can switch over and work on something else for a while.

I picked music videos because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I think it’s going to be fun and challenging and I’m pretty excited about it. It will give me an opportunity to flex some muscles I haven’t used in a while. I intend to pick three songs I like and make low to no budget videos for them. The songs can be anything since these are spec videos and using them like this is covered under my fair-use rights. The videos can feature anything at all, only limited by my ability to plan and my technical skills.

Astute readers will notice a change in the language regarding the short stories between the original conceptualizing post and this announcement post. Specifically, I added the term “finished” to differentiate the scope of the short stories for 2010 (twenty-ten) and the scope of the stories for 2009. This year, the point was just to write a lot without revisions or thinking too much about what I was doing. Just getting things did. Next year is about creating things that have real thought and effort behind them. The scope is grander, so the output will be lesser, but in terms of having finished work to share, the ultimate effect is much more significant. 12 solid, finished short stories is a collection at the very least, and, if they all work together, a book. That would be a nice thing to have.

Keep your eyes peeled for the remainder of my 5000 photos and 50 short stories for this year followed by a wrap-up post in the first week of January. Then it’s time to get the next year’s work going.

Thinking about the Theme for 2010

December is upon us and about to crest, leading us into the descent of 2009. This means the end of the first decade of the 21st century, an utterly meaningless metric, but one that has provided me with no fewer than four “Greatest Metal Albums of The Last Decade” lists. Not bad. Everyone seems to like Mastodon’s Leviathan, which I’ve never really listened to. I’ll have to give it a go.

And with the fading of 2009 another year’s theme comes to an end. The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories, though not yet through, has been a success as far as I am concerned. With the express purpose of getting me to be consistently creative and come out of the year with some work done, the year has been a resounding success. While I am not yet at my quota for either task, I am confident that within the next few weeks I should be able to make it. 50% of the stories are finished at 92% of the photos. Pretty good. I have a lot of writing to do and a few photos to take, but we’re in the home stretch and I feel good about it. Let’s not also discount the film I am cutting right now and all the time and effort poured into this site for my 10 readers. I love all of you.

With three weeks left in the year, it’s time to think of my theme for 2010. In my statement for the Theme of 2009, I discussed some previous years and the efficacy of those choices. I’m not going into it again here, but I’ll sum it all up and say some were hits and some were clear misses. Last year I described a good theme as being “broadly applicable with recognizable short term goals”. I still think this is a good way to evaluate a potential theme, but I’d like to add that the theme should have demonstrable results, that is, I should be able to show something for my efforts. The best way to improve myself is by doing. All the thinking about something in the world won’t make you better at it. You have to get out there and get your hands (proverbially) dirty. It’s old wisdom, but true.

Another aspect of my yearly theme is that once complete the theme should continue into the next year. I intend to take another 5000 photos and write 50 more short stories next year and to keep a counter of those on the right hand side. But since they’re a secondary goal, I won’t be killing myself to get them done. My primary focus will be the Theme of 2010, of course.

But what is the Theme of 2010? I don’t know yet, but I have some ideas.

  • The Year of 3 Music Videos – In September, I wrote about building a body of motion work. Amongst my various bodies of work, my film & video work is easily the most poorly represented. I have plenty of photos to share and fewer but still ample stories, but how many pieces of motion work have I posted here that I have done? If you answered “Zero”, you’d be correct. And it’s clear I like music videos and the music that supports them. The only real drawback to this theme is that each video is a big project in itself and to get behind would certainly spell doom for this theme. There are a lot of steps involved though, so perhaps it could still fit the pattern of work posting I’ve established with The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories which would help me stay on task and stay honest.
  • The Year of 12 Short Stories – “But, Joe,” you say, “didn’t you just do The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories? What’s with cutting the quota down so much? Are you lame or something?” No, I’m not lame. Instead of writing 500 word chunks, these 12 short stories would be much more finished pieces, actually receiving—GASP!—revisions. These would be multiple-sitting efforts. I think the one per month pace would allow for some breathing room, and let me think about the work more. In terms of length, let’s call them somewhere in the range of 5,000 to 15,000 words. This year the longest thing I’ve written is about 3000 words. It was the first thing I posted for this year’s theme. The Biker Kills a Mexican. That one took me a few nights at the computer, but received no revisions. I’m proposing 12 stories of at least double the length. It’s a good amount of work, I think, but manageable.
  • The Year of the Novella – Here the idea is to write the longest single thing I’ve ever written. I like the novella, it’s like a long short story, or a baby novel. I suppose it depends on which direction you’re coming from. It would be an exercise in developing something more thoroughly than I ever have before and sticking to it. The SFWA defines a novella as a piece between 15,000 and 40,000 words, but other definitions go as low as 10,000 and as high as 70,000. That’s certainly a fairly broad range and suitable for work throughout the year. Maybe this could evolve into The Year of 2 Novellas in order to keep me busy. If I wrote 500 words a day, my current per-day volume of work, then 70,000 words would take 140 days. Average in some days without writing, and we’re still looking at barely half a year. Just something to keep in mind.
  • The Year of 3 Screenplays – It has been a long time since I’ve written for screen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not something I still care about. Writing is writing. Writing 3 feature length screenplays of roughly 120 pages each would be a great way to get back into it. I’ve got some ideas boiling around the back of my brain that would be great for films. I just need to get them out and onto (electronic) paper.

I think that in those suggestions, somewhere, lies the theme for 2010 that will make the year a great one. Perhaps I combine Short Stories and Music Videos, or Music Videos and Novella, or Music Videos and Screenplays, or Short Stories and Screenplays? The cross disciplinary approach worked well enough for me this year. When I didn’t write, at least I could take pictures. When I could take pictures, at least I could write.

Anyway, food for thought. I need think about this a little more. What do you all think out there in Black Laserland?

Thoughts on the Hunter open house last night.

Last night, as many of you who keep tabs on the goings on in my life outside the professional realm know, was the open house for the 2010 applications to Hunter’s Creative Writing MFA program. After the disappointing results of last year’s application, I am ready and primed and pumped and revved about this year’s round. It was not nearly as severe of information-overload as last year, which is nice. Many of the things I wrote about here were confirmed by faculty and student alike. I need to allow for the natural tendencies and rawness and voice in my writing to “jump off the page” as they were fond of saying last night. The Black Laser provides plenty of evidence that this is not a problem for me. On a(n almost) daily basis I write for you, my loyal legion of followers and well-wishers, in a voice that I think rather adeptly echoes the way I speak. Probably fewer “fucks”, but whatever. The trick—not that it’s a trick, more of an approach, really—with my fiction will be not to work it so hard that I end up neutering the natural cadence and flow of the words. I need to edit for clarity and mistakes, but not worry that something might come off as too TOO, you know what I mean? See that sentence? I probably need to edit it for clarity, but fuck it. My writing needs to be functional and raw and exciting; polish can come later.

Last year I imposed hiatus on myself and then worked exclusively on one piece for months—thinking, writing, rewriting, and revising an idea I’d had while sitting at brunch with Juli some months before. It ended up being a very limiting process for me and didn’t allow me to play around with the piece as I ought to have. And I think the piece suffered for it, as I described in my previous post on the topic.

This year I intend to approach this creative submission process differently. I also have a number of things going for me this year over last year. First, I’m freelance, meaning I have more flexibility in deciding my schedule if I need to. Of course, if works comes up, I’ll take it, because The Black Laser can’t live off lightning and fear. Even he needs to eat. Second, I have the experience of the process last year to inform the decisions I make this year. Third, I don’t have to worry about getting my transcripts and letters of recommendation again. If I have to apply a third time, I will, but let’s think about that if that happens, yes? Fourth, and most importantly, I have the perfect venue for trying out ideas for my final piece—The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories.

Oh, right, remember that? A quick check in the right hand column will show that I’ve made admirable progress on my photos, but my poor stories have languished. Poor stories. And, with fewer than 60 days left in 2009 (where has it gone?!), if I’m to live up to my end of the bargain, I need to get going.

From here on out, I will be writing every night, at least 500 words. If I can do more than that, I will, but 500 will be my minimum. I often get stuck thinking, “Man, I have nothing to write about. Where are the ideas?” and I get all hung up and stupid and don’t do anything. For the rest of the year, if I have nothing new to write about, I will rewrite old ideas or someone else’s ideas or ideas I thought were dumb, just to keep my fingers moving. If I am not working, then I will try and do two rounds of 500 words, one first thing in the morning, followed by a walk, and then another 500 hundred. Quality is less important than producing regularly. If I am able to crank out 47 more short stories this year, then somewhere within that body I will have something worth editing or turning into something more for the purpose of the application due February 1, 2010.

Come the new year I am going to turn my attention toward getting the personal statement finished and whipping the creative submission into shape. I haven’t forgotten my idea of reading the first 20-25 pages of books either, mind you, but I might have to push that back until after 1/1/10. January will be a busy month for me trying to get all this stuff done, but I can do it. I can DO IT. I mean, the one student last night has two children, 3 and 6 months, a full time job, a husband, and still manages to get her MFA work done. Impressive. I’m not even committing to CLOSE to that kind of schedule. I can do it!

Don’t forget that I have to fit The Frontiersman’s Wife in here too. At the very least, baseball will be over soon and that time sink won’t be around to distract me anymore.

We have embarked on an exciting end-of-2009, Black Laserites! Keep reading!