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Posts tagged as “The Year of 12 Projects”

Creative Projects-December: The Return of Torgeir, or, I Was Half Healthy!

December was a decent month for me creatively. I managed to bring back good old Torgeir in a significant way. I really enjoy the hell out of writing that guy because it gives me a venue to be a complete dick. I often don’t believe the advice I am giving as Torgeir, but there are other times I kind of think that he’s totally right on. And then I get to slip into some recollection of his past in Norway and I am allowed to go totally nuts. And get dark. Really dark. And then I get to close the whole thing off by completely contradicting myself and recommending some of my favorite black metal to you guys. I get all sorts of positive feedback about the Torgeir columns that I haven’t gotten from anything else, so that is super great and inspirational to keep doing it.

As far as slowing my roll, that was more of a mixed result.

For the first half of the month I was very good about hitting the gym 3 times a week and eating super well keeping to my 80% paleo guidelines. And no doubt, I felt really good about it. I hit 190 pounds for the first time in I can’t even remember. I stepped on the scale expecting my usual 195~200 and the little red line stopped at 190. I actually yelled, “Holy shit!” in my apartment. Aloud. By myself. I proceeded to tell a bunch of people, of course. What would The Black Laser be without me broadcasting every stupid little thing I think or care about into the wild voids of the internet?

I had noticed that my body was changing, that I was acquiring better definition on my torso, but I just chalked it up to vanity. Then when I saw the 190, I realized that all the fucking push-ups and pull-ups and squats and all the other nightmarish things they were having me do actually made a difference. Holy shit, right? I was psyched.

But then Christmas party season rolled around and, as one does every single year, I spent the next three weeks drunk the entire time. It’s hard to motivate to get to the gym at 8am when you’ve only been asleep for three hours at that point. Oops. And then I went to California and sure as hell wasn’t going to the gym while I was there. Also drunk the whole time. And then I came back the 27th and have had no real excuses not to go except that I am a lazy fuck. And I ate badly. Stupid holidays.

So that’s no good. But what are you going to do? I am all paid up through May so it’s just a matter of getting my ass there. I can do it!

Look out for a wrap up of the entire Year of 12 Creative Projects and Slowing My Roll soon. Should be interesting to go back through the whole year.

Creative Projects-November: Unproductive, or, Go to Hell, Feelings!

November was a terribly unproductive month for me. Not a single creative project in sight, though I did have like 6 or 7 abortive attempts at my Christmas song. That doesn’t count at all. Nothing to report here.

Basically, overall, November has fucking sucked and I am glad it’s over. I’ve been in a rotten mental and emotional state, cranky, sleepless, touchy, tense, miserable. Every little thing has been setting me off and I’m lonely and stupid and that makes me feel worse. It’s all been really misdirected and awful and sometimes I just wish I could sleep through all of it and not come in to work and not leave the house and not do anything. But I can’t do that, so I suck it up. Nothing is making me feel better and nothing silences the bullshit running through my head. I am sick as fuck of it. Leave me alone, sadness! I don’t want you! Can I please wake up and not feel like a complete shit head? Thanks. That would be awesome.

Anyway, enough of that bitching and moaning. I’ll check back in after the new year.

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.


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

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!

Creative Projects-October: Where The Hell Was My Project, or, Crossfit Is Making Me Hurt.

October was a fine month! I went back to California and saw my brother and his little family and went to my friend’s wedding and saw a bunch of good old folks I haven’t seen in ages. It was a heart warming, rousing good time.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to do any creative work this month. Sure, I had the photos I posted of the girls, but I really just think of those as snapshots. Fancy pants snapshots, but snapshots still. The photos from Spain were a different beast. They were more calculated, more deliberate. The photos from home just weren’t and I don’t really feel good about calling them a project.

Matt at Vox Critica asked me to do a bunch more Torgeirs too, but I could manage to get my shit together and actually write them so that is slipping into next month as well. Stupid.

And of course, October was also when I did my first pro VO job which is fucking awesome. But, again, money was made so I don’t get to count it toward my tally for the year. It was still incredible though, and I hope it’s the start of many more.

So, October, not exactly the most creative month for me, but that’s ok. I’ve been on a roll recently, and a little lull isn’t the end of the world. Next month look out for more Torgeirs, Ancient Aliens, and this year’s Christmas track(s??).

And on to the second half of this year’s theme: slowing my roll. So much of slowing my roll this year has been focused on not drinking all the time like a god damned drunk. And, honestly, I feel like I’ve been doing really well on that count. But “slowing my roll” is not just about how much or how little I drink. It’s also about taking care of myself in the face of my overwhelmingly bad habits and tendencies. And that means getting my ass out of the house to exercise.

Enter the Crossfit Elements course at Crossfit NYC.

I discussed this a little bit in last month’s summary. Crossfit, recommended to me by the inimitable JJ Zambrano, is a high intensity workout designed to build practical strength. Here’s what they have to say about it.

CrossFit is an extremely efficient and effective way to get into world-class shape.

Our workouts consist of constantly varied, functional movements (like pushups and pullups, deadlifts and squats, gymnastics, kettlebells, running, rowing, and olympic lifting), executed at high intensity in a group setting.

Essentially, a fun, friendly, yet high-intensity boot camp, with weights.

CrossFit is for anyone, regardless of their age or fitness level. Our members range from professional athletes and members of the New York FBI SWAT Team to grandfathers in their mid-seventies and desk jockeys with barely enough hand-eye coordination to use a mouse.

In short, if you care about health, real-world performance, or just want to look better naked, CrossFit is for you.

It’s the kind of workout you could do in your garage (if you have a garage; I do not). In fact, I’ve been able to successfully do some workouts in my weird little Brooklyn apartment. It’s great. You set a timer, go through the things, and jam while listening to metal. What the hell? That’s awesome. I can totally do that. Now, nearly at the end of the course (the last one starts in a couple hours), I feel like this is something I can really stick with. I intend to give it six months to see how I feel. You can’t really get solid results without a solid commitment, so that’s what I want to do. Commit.

Just before my first class, I was wandering about with Sarah and she asked me what my goals were for the class. I told her, “I want to feel better,” which is completely true. Since then I’ve thought about it a little more and I feel that while “I want to feel better” is still the perfect umbrella answer, there are some more specific ways to break it down.

First, I want to be stronger. That’s pretty basic. Can you do a dead hang over-arm pullup? I can’t. Not to save my life. How many pushups can you do in 2 minutes? The first night I found out that I can only do about 30 of them before I am unable to lift myself off the ground. And that was pushing myself HARD. I want to be able to do better than that. Seriously better than that.

Next, I want to look better. I am not ugly, let’s don’t even go there, but for the last couple of years I have felt a little too fluffy for my tastes. I’d like be leaner than I am now. I am already on the road having changed quite dramatically the way I am eating. I’ve lost about 10 pounds from my coasting weight of 205 pounds to about 195. There’s a little variance, but that’s normal. The next step is to change the shape of my body. I don’t want to spend the rest of my waning youth soft. Let’s get intense, motherfucker.

Next, I want to address the nagging asthma that I’ve been pissed off about for the last few years. At some point, while living next to a BQE underpass, I developed cough-equivalent asthma. Basically, instead of having gasping asthma attacks, I am wracked with violent, dry coughing fits. A lot of things irritate my lungs: seasonal allergies, overly air-conditioned spaces, humidity, whatever. I keep it under control, usually, with my Advair, but without health insurance it’s 250 bucks a month which is like, what?, like 40 beers? That’s a lot of beers. I really hope that I can use the increased endurance and pulmonary strength I hope to build in Crossfit to lessen the effects of my asthma. I really hate it.

Next, I’d like to get back into martial arts, but I’d like to be in better shape before I go back. As a kid I studied Tae Kwon Do and loved it. I dropped it because I was a pre-teen and an idiot and had no idea what was good for me. I should have kept going. In college I flirted with Wing Chun Kung Fu for a minute, but eventually settled into American Jiu Jitsu—a middle ground between Japanese Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jistu. I studied that for a year and a half or so until my senior year of school when I was hunkering down for my final film and ran out of money and time. By the time I had time again, I’d graduated and certainly didn’t have the money for it. Luckily, these days I both have time (not waking up hungover every morning) and money (bling bling, motherfucker) to take martial arts classes. But this time I think I am going to go for Krav Maga, or as a former boss called it “Jew Jitsu”. Krav Maga is a martial art designed by and for the Israeli Special Forces focused on kicking the shit out of the other guy. Grappling and floor fighting and katas and forms and whatever aren’t going to help you kill the other guy and get away as undamaged as possible; Krav Maga will. That’s awesome. I remember the physical confidence I had when studying Jiu Jitsu and I would like to possess that again.

Really, I’d like to go into my 30s (June 17, 2012) looking, feeling, and being as good as I can. I spent my 20s fucking off and doing whatever and getting my career in order, so now it’s time to get my body and my head in order. I’d like to have a head start. That’s where this is all leading. The slowing my roll, the projects, the myriad year themes: they’re all directed at putting me into a better place than I was yesterday. I think that’s important. I owe it not just to myself, but to the people I love and who love me, to the people who rely on me and the people who will come to rely on me, to be healthy and sane and productive. You can’t take care of your folks when you’re a fucking mess. I know that. And that’s all that life is, you and your people. Do your best to be your best in everything.

Ok, /end Joe’s life philosophy. I’ll check back in after November with thoughts about that month and, perhaps, thoughts about next year’s theme. Exciting. Stay tuned.

Creative Projects-September: Dance Dance Dance, or, Barcelona-Vale! Vale!

September was a super strong creative month for me with not one but two dance videos (projects 10 & 11) and what I consider to be a nice return to my photo habit (project 12). You’ve seen the work and, I hope, enjoyed it as well.

The videos were fun little exercises in cranking out projects, the one we did in my apartment especially. The first video really needed to be put out quickly since it was a topical joke on that insipid video that Lanvin put out. So, it was. The edit only took a little while and the grade even less time. Of course, I was not happy with the first color correct, so I did it again the next day at work. The After Effects work to comp the problematic scenes was probably what took the longest, but, still, everything considered, the video was shot Thursday night and posted to the grand old interwebs Friday evening.

The Rubirosa video was slightly more involved on Sarah’s part since it required wrangling the staff of the restaurant, but my contribution was about the same as the prior video. Edit over a couple sittings, tweak this, tweak that, animate a face under a pizza, edit the music, make everything beautiful, and done. Luckily it was very well received by both staff and press, being blogged all over NY’s various foodie blogs. Pretty bad ass.

I might have also included the Ruby Kobo video in this list, but I took money for that so it doesn’t count according to the guidelines I established for this year’s theme. Regardless, I like how that came out too. Nice little video.

As I’ve mentioned before, the photos from Barcelona were the first set of photos I’ve posted to The Black Laser since July of 2010. I’ve taken a few photos in the interim, but nothing worth sharing, nothing I cared about. Honestly, I felt like I was done with photos and considered selling my photo equipment a few times. It would bring me a considerable sum as I’ve invested quite a few dollars into the habit over the years. But, I am glad I haven’t taken that plunge. I’ve just felt no inspiration to take photos, nothing has been popping out at me screaming “CAPTURE ME!!” I almost didn’t even take the camera to Spain since I wanted to pack lightly. Fortunately, I went with the old, “Fuck it, why not?” and took my stuff. I am glad I did and would have bitterly regretted not having my equipment in some of the places we went—Monserrat especially.

Looking back over the photos I took, and then comparing them to older photos, it is very clear to me that my eye is incredibly consistent, but that my technique and taste are getting better and better. Even with my year hiatus, I came back to the process of capturing images with a cleared mind than I remember ever having before. Indeed, I was much more critical of the photos I was taking as I was taking them than I ever remember being. Perhaps the break is exactly what I needed because I am definitely pleased with the quality of the selects. I wish I had taken more photos, but I guess I’ll just have to go back.

And how has the process of slowing my roll gone? Quite well in September, in fact. Besides some wedding-induced over indulgence, September has been quite a moderate month for me. I’ve been very deliberately eating better, too. I am now below 200 pounds for the first time in years and years. Encouraging!

While were were vacationing in Europe (mad bougie, I know), I was talking to JJ about how I really want to get back into shape, but how I just fucking loathe running. He suggested Crossfit which he said would kick my ass. I told him that needed my ass kicked. When i got back to the States (mad bougie phrase), I looked up classes in NY. I found a place close to work, but was intimidated by the cost. When I mention that to JJ, he was like, “Dude, that’s 3 nights of drinking. Shut up,” and I was all, “Yeah, duh. Ok,” and signed up. Though technically in October, I took a free intro class on Saturday and holy shit it kicked my ass. I gave me two things. 1) The clear knowledge that I am magnificently out of shape. 2) The desire not to have my ass kicked again. 7 minutes into the 10 minute workout I was seeing stars. My thighs still kill and it’s Monday. Amazing.

The intro course starts 10/17 and runs for three weeks. I will have more to say about it in my October recap, certainly, so look forward to that.

Let’s also talk for a moment about the amortization of expenses as they relate to drinks. I’ve written here on The Black Laser about how I amortize photographic expenditures, that is, a photo must be taken for every dollar spent on gear with that piece of gear. It’s sensible and it works. However, I’ve also found that a useful way for me to think about spending on things in my life is to measure it against what I would spend at the bar. “Oh jeez, 5 dollars for whatever thingie that would probably be really helpful?” 1 beer. “100 bucks for x, y, or z thing?” 1 Saturday out. “300 bucks for the intro to Crossfit course and two weeks of classes afterwards that will put me on the path to being more healthy?” 3 Saturdays out. Money I wouldn’t even think for a second about spending at the bar becomes incredibly difficult to spend in real life on other things that would be much more beneficial to me than a night of drinking that I might not even remember.

How stupid is that? Really stupid. But, the truth is that it is a useful hack that I’ve been using on myself for a long time. And it works.

Ok, lots of words about September. Hopefully October is just as productive. Oh yeah, 100% on the projects. WHAT WHAT!? Awesome. Everything from here on out is in the triple digit percentages. Healthy. I like it.

Creative Projects-August: The Black Laser Gets Redesigned, or, Giving Advice To Those Who Don’t Want It

Another month, another series of successes! WOO WOO. I was able to successfully finish the redesign of The Black Laser which was long in coming. I am glad it is done. That was project 8.

I also debuted as Torgeir the Black Metal Extremist over at Vox Critica which is pretty sweet. Giving people advice they don’t want might be the most important thing a person can do for others and I am glad to be inflicting that trauma. Enjoy it. Torgeir was project 9.

You’ll also notice that the counter for this year so far is already at 11. That’s right. Nearly all the way there and only mid-way through September. It’s a far cry from earlier this year when I was struggling to get things done. Feels damned good.

On the other half of the tip, August was a pretty good, moderate month for me. Nothing terribly exciting to report there. The whole “Don’t Go Drinking During The Week By Yourself” thing is working out pretty well for me. Next up? “Don’t Go Drinking By Yourself At All.” Baby steps.

There’s a bunch of stuff to talk about during this month’s wrap up, but it will have to wait. Until then!

Creative Projects-July: One and A Half is better than Zero, or, Where is all this money from!?

July was a successful for month for me on both pursuits for this year.

Creatively, I put another The Black Laser Reads… out into the universe and managed to finally begin the redesign of the site. I didn’t finish the redesign until we had rolled over into August so it won’t count towards July, but does count for my overall year tally of getting things did. I am pretty psyched on that. Hopefully, if I can keep this momentum up, you’ll be seeing a year end summary where I can claim to have finished more than 100% of my allotted projects. Pretty good. Gets my juices going, that does.

It is also quite nice to have finally passed 50% of my allotment, with another 8.333% in the works. It’s not yet ready to be shared, but it will be done before the month ends so look for more about that when the time comes for my August summary.

In regards to my secondary goal for the year, July was great. I was quite good at sticking to my “don’t go drinking during the week” guideline which feels good. I’m sleeping well (except for the heat), waking up easily, feeling chipper in the morning, and I’m finding money in my pocket from the beginning of the week. It just stays there! That was welcome because, for a variety of reasons, July ended up being a fairly cash-strapped month for me. Finding money that I would have previously written off as history ended up being nice little reminders that I was successfully sticking to my plan. That’s good.

I’ve also been riding my bike around a bit. I quite like it and find that I am flying around like a lunatic whenever possible. Not recklessly, of course, but enough. Though the month of constantly threatening rain has dissuaded me from taking the bike out on more than one occasion. That’s a drag, but getting caught in whipping sheets of rain in the dark with the wind blowing your contacts out as you ride through traffic is less desirable. I’ll pick my battles there.

Overall, pretty positive month for me and, aside from some weirdo mental shit on and off that has little to do with my theme, feeling pretty good about it. I feel like I am developing a healthy pattern here of work, followed by work, followed by relaxing.

I’ll check back in on this business in a month.

Welcome to The Black Laser Version 2!

And lo many good things were let loose upon the land!

Finally, after two and half years of life, The Black Laser has received a much needed redesign. It took me ages of hemming and hawing to finally get around to it, but it’s done(ish) and ready to be unveiled. So, what’s new in the land of The Black Laser?

  • New Logo! It’s almost as black metal as I wanted.
  • Sans-serif font! Geometric!
  • Disqus commenting system! Just because!
  • A modern theme! Doesn’t affect you!
  • Uh, some other stuff!

Mostly I want to give the old bat a new coat of paint. It needed it. Of course, I am sure there are things I am going to want to change over the next few days of living with the new design, so don’t mind any annoying downtime here and there while I fiddle.

Stick around, test it out, and let me know if I messed something up. Enjoy!