More Thoughts on 1 Second Everyday

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First off, I've been continuing my 1 Second Everyday project. Here's an updated video that depicts my first two months (approximately) in Seattle:


After I made my initial post, I had a lot more time to reflect on this project and specifically, its constraints. I also had a fantastic, lengthy conversation with Cesar Kuriyama, who has helped to popularize this type of project.

Before I delve into some of the things we discussed, I should emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to do this. We are just at the beginning of an era when regular consumers having the capability to record and edit these types videos, so we're all just writing the rules as we go along.

Cesar and I discussed the following issues:

First, a reminder for those attempting to do the same project - It's best to record multiple "seconds" each day, as you may not know which one will mean the most to you until later. See more on this topic below.

Can it ever be longer than a second? - Limits encourage creativity. They force us to innovate and to avoid excess. Nonetheless, I wondered about the one second limit. Cesar saw changing it as a slippery slope: if you make some segments longer than one second, then you're "privileging" certain days, when each day should get its own "chance" to be a part of the project. Taken to the extreme, this could destroy the integrity of the project.

Personally, this doesn't bother me too much. I agree with limits, but one second occasionally seems arbitrarily short. One of the people that has done a similar project didn't impose a one second limit on her project and the resulting project was still great.  If you watch the above video, you may notice that some of the segments are slightly longer than one second. Here's what I can promise: the overwhelmingly vast majority of segments will be one second long. Some of them will be slightly longer than one second. None of them will be as long or longer than two seconds. 

Should you add music to the final product? - The video I just mentioned is scored to LCD Soundsystem, and gained popularity partially as a result of that. Cesar is against scoring these types of projects. From his blog:

Being able to listen to any particular moment is crucial to remembering it. The sound of my dad laughing... Tina Fey's Bossypants audio book while I'm driving through Tennessee... even the sound of slapping my cousin hello brings me back, haha :)Not to mention that music directs you towards a certain mood. And some of these seconds can switch from joy to sorrow, then back to joy in literally a heart beat.

A great discussion ensued about this topic on my Facebook wall. C. Robert Cargill defended the notion of using music thusly:

Those are interesting thoughts, though I would argue that it is hard for anyone to really glean real emotion from one second clips. I come from the Kerouac school of writing: "Be in love with yr life." A piece like this *should* be a celebration. I should, for a few brief minutes, feel like you aren't just living your life, but that you are living the hell out of it. The right piece of music married to that kind of footage could do just that.

I haven't quite decided how I'm going to handle this yet, but it's likely I'll produce two separate videos: one with music and one without.

What about releasing the videos on a regular basis? - People who follow this blog know that I like to produce content. A lot of content. Photos, videos, audio: I get a thrill out of recording some slice of this world and presenting it for all to see on a regular basis. The idea of working my ass off for a year-long project and only being able to release a single video that might be seen by just a few hundred/thousand people seemed like a lot of work for not that much payoff.

Should I release monthly updates of the project? Maybe do a halfway point (6 months) video? There are disadvantages to this, of course: any sort of progress update would likely blunt the impact of a final video. Cesar chimed in on this topic with some of his thoughts: 


Much like my thoughts on music, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer, just personal preference. Off the top of my head I could think of at least a couple of reason why I prefer yearly.

- when I first came up with this idea, I was adamant about doing something that wouldn't feel like a chore. I think posting per month for the rest of my life would feel a bit more like perpetual homework. (although the App I'm currently developing will largely resolve this)


- Like you so eloquently explained in your blog post, I often keep several seconds to represent a particular day. I've found that I often need time to reflect on what ends up being the second that I want to remember forever. Example: In my video, you'll see me playing Settler's of Catan a bunch. The first time you see my play that board game is actually the first time I was taught how to play by a friend's husband. He's explaining the rules in it. I remember that was the day I biked all over the Ohio State campus. And I had recorded a second there. I'd always wanted to check out that campus since I was in High School. I thought it was pretty obvious that would be my second of the day. In the months that followed, Catan became a HUGE part of the life of my friends and I. We love getting together to play the crap out of it. Because I didn't post my compilation online until the end of my first year, I was able to change my mind and switch the second for that day. Learning how to play that game became a pretty significant event in my life. Obviously unbeknownst to me at the time. This ended up being the case for a considerable amount of seconds. It wasn't until months later that I realized certain events became truly significant.

- a short reason. Much like yourself, I tend to post a couple of things online every day. Sometimes its a cool online nugget, and sometimes it's something personal. I think demanding the attention of my friends once a year to get a glimpse of my life is much more absorbable than requesting 30 seconds of their attention monthly.


- I guess one of the things I'm getting at is... there's a lot you can get away with if you wait a long time before posting... another example is the 2 horrible months when my sister in law was in the hospital. I was always petrified recording those moments. I wasn't even on facebook during that span of time. I can't imagine posting something like that while it was still happening. I was so scared my family would hate me for putting all that in a video. The night before my flight to TED I shared the video with my Sister in Law, her mom, & my mom... I thought: "well... if they're not comfortable with me sharing this on the stage at TED and online... I'll try to explain my reasonings... but if that fails... then I'll just have to cut the video short because there's no way I would do this without my families approval". Luckily they loved it. It worked exactly as I intended it... a reflection of how bad things were, and how grateful we should be that we've moved on to better days.


- There was something exceptionally magical about how friends in my "seconds" reacted when they saw themselves in the compilation of my first year... most didn't know they would be in it. For some weird reason, they felt a lot closer to me. They were often happy that I decided that they were a meaningful part of my life. I don't believe this would have the same effect if we had shared a particular moment together, & I was posting it just a month later.

As a point of fact, I still think it's possible to post monthly compilations, then switch out a "second" or two when it comes time to create the year-end project. I haven't decided how I'm going to proceed, but it's likely that this will be the last time you see a cumulative progress update on this project (at least until maybe I'm six months into it). 
***

That's all for now. Thanks again to Cesar for his guidance. Hope you enjoy the video.

A New Breaking Bad Podcast

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You know the drill! Joanna and I have started a new Breaking Bad podcast to cover its final season. Subscribe using the following links:

 

Reflections about The Aurora Tragedy

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I was totally gutted to hear yesterday's tragic news about the shootings in Colorado. There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said better anywhere else. Here is writing surrounding this incident that I found to be insightful and/or provocative (in a good way):

Alyssa Rosenberg reflects on how the gunman turned "shared enthusiasm into a weapon."

Dave Weigel and Max Read write about politicizing the tragedy.

Chris Cillizza explains why this won't change the gun control debate.

Matt Singer weighs in from a movie lover's point of view.

James Poniewozik discusses the value of Twitter during terrible times.

And Jessica Ghawi, one of the shooting victims, wrote some thoughts on her blog just a couple of months ago about narrowly escaping another shooting at the Eaton Center. The post has since gone viral:

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening. I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

The Physics of Crowds

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Great piece by Emily Badger about the physics of crowds and why fatal stampedes happen, even in crowds comprised of peaceful, reasonable people:

The small movements of so many people aggregate into a powerful force – one that security officials are often helpless to halt – that has the capacity to knock over bodies, shove them together and, ultimately, asphyxiate them. This sounds impossible, but 21 people died at Love Parade inside a crowd that had essentially been standing still. There was no real crowd rush or dramatic "stampede." And this is the heart of the mystery to non-scientists as to how such a thing could happen.

The Magic Number? $75,000

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Research shows that in the U.S., money correlates with happiness until you get to an income of about $75,000. After that, happiness returns diminish rapidly. The key is what you do after you hit $75,000:

Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck.

On Leaving New York

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Here's Cord Jefferson's lovely paean to New York City, and why he had to leave it:

When I moved out of New York, I knew at the time that it was the best decision for my career and pocketbook. Only now have I come to realize how important leaving was for my sanity, as well. Not that I was afflicted with claustrophobia or exhaustion or any of the pseudo-ailments with which so many hypochondriac New Yorkers diagnose themselves. Rather, I'd deliberately forgotten that life outside New York is just as pure and valid as life inside New York, which is a hazard of the City just the same as street crime, and one that's far more prevalent.

The Travails of a Wannabe Screenwriter

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Man, I adored this piece by Stephen Harrigan about his struggles trying to (or not trying to?) make it big in Hollywood as a screenwriter (via Matt Singer):

I had wanted to be a screenwriter since 1962, when I walked out of the Tower Theater in Corpus Christi, Texas as a very different 14-year-old boy than when I had walked in. The movie was Lawrence of Arabia, and watching it was like being sucked into a wormhole and delivered to an alternate universe. The unworldly disorientation I experienced was due in large part to David Lean’s direction, to his unprecedented sense of scale and pace and purpose, and to the Maurice Jarre score, which half a century later was still so haunting to me that I sometimes use it as the ringtone on my cellphone. But Lawrence of Arabia had another dimension, one that I had never really noticed before. For the first time, I was aware that movies were written, not just somehow fortuitously assembled. It was obvious that the dialogue—“The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts” or “What attracts you personally to the desert?” “It’s clean.”—had to have been set down somewhere in cold print, not just thought up on the fly. And it was more than the dialogue itself that made me take notice of the name Robert Bolt; it was the wordless action as well, the way the scenes steadily built and drew upon each other to produce such a satisfying impression of momentum and coherence.

Identity

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Sunset 7-8
This is the third of three posts covering a major transition in my life. You can also read the first one and the second one.

It's been about two months since I decided to move to Seattle, and yet it has already felt like a short lifetime. I've started work at a totally unfamiliar environment, begun exploring some of the rich neighborhoods around downtown, hung out with some really great locals, and found a neat new apartment in Belltown. In the meantime, I've also kept producing episodes of all of my podcasts, including the /Filmcast, The Tobolowsky Files, and A Cast of Kings (plus, did you hear? I'm launching a new one too).

I was prompted to write this blog post because I got all nostalgic this week reading /Film's coverage of San Diego Comic-Con. Not too long ago, I went to Comic-Con for two years in a row, back when my work for /Film was at its peak output. I remember the special place in my geek heart that Comic-Con had occupied since my college days. The place was supposed to be a mecca of pop culture, a place where you could really let your freak flag fly and no one would judge you for it. Indeed, pretty much everything I saw comported with that dream. People dress up in crazy costumes and just nonchalantly waltz around in restaurants and convention halls alike. The gods of the film world frequently make appearances. Every now and then, you get some actual insight into the creation of a film or a TV show, or something crazy happens, or something really adorable happens. It's like a geek's dream-world.

But covering Comic-Con was a challenge. I recall endless lines in the hot sun coupled with hours of waiting for no guarantee of making it into a panel, and staying up late into the night, trying to bang out some relevant stories for the site. It was all so thrilling and exciting and wonderful and terrible. But there was so much camaraderie there, amongst all the great writers I had the privilege to work alongside. Sure, we were regurgitating poorly veiled marketing material, but we were racking up a crapton of pageviews, paying the bills, and basking in our love of "the popular arts." There are few experiences as exhilarating and as cathartic. I miss the people. I miss the insanity. I miss the video blogs (one of which was actually covered by The New York Times).

This year, I didn't go to Comic-Con. In fact, I spent this past Friday at a business meeting in San Francisco, all day. My life is totally unrecognizable from what it used to be.

It's remarkable, this culture of online pop culture writers that's sprung up over the course of the past decade. These people travel around the world, interviewing celebrities, seeing stuff before we get to see it, getting their own stuff read by tens of thousands of people. It sounds like living the dream and for many people, it is.

Eight months ago, I was wrapping up my Master's degree and thinking about my next steps. One of the options I considered was diving straight into doing all of this online stuff full time. Podcasting, blogging, interviews, etc., all of it. If I really made a go of it, I would've probably been able to scrape together enough money to get by. But other opportunities came my way and I decided not to go that route.

In deliberating, I was confronted with an unmistakable truth: I just didn't love it enough.

I'm sure that many of my favorite online writers live comfortably, but it is difficult out there for an aspiring film writer. There are perils everywhere. Write about something in the wrong way or in violation of some arbitrarily established "rules" and bloggers will jump all over you on Twitter. Meanwhile, the old guard will look down on you if they think your writing is not "serious" enough, or if, god forbid, you actually want to make money doing what you do. All the while, everyone vies for a rapidly vanishing slice of nominal ad dollars spent on their sites. For many, these are all just minor inconveniences that are endured in exchange for the vast benefits enumerated above. But for me, it's not  enough. At least, not right now. There are too many things that I want to do and to learn first, before I start living the life of Reilly. It may not be as outwardly exciting as going to Comic-Con or interviewing James Cameron, but I love the wonder and satisfaction of learning and overcoming and discovering in my current *gasp* corporate environment. That's not to say that one can't derive that from online work (it's usually quite the opposite, in fact). It's just to say that I can't right now, at least without frantically worrying about my other life obligations.

At the /Filmcast, we recently marked the four-year "anniversary" of our first episode. It reminded me that while it's certainly been a roller-coaster ride, the past four years have also been marked with a great deal of uncertainty in my life. I don't know that I've settled into my final destination yet, but after a lot of struggle, things are finally starting to feel as though they have some momentum. I'm loving my new job, my new manager/boss, and all the awesome new things I'm learning. I like the way things are, even as I miss the way they were.

It's possible that one day I will get back into the writing/broadcasting game and do it full-bore. But in the meantime, I'm content to watch from the sidelines, to remember the good old days, and to cheer on all of my colleagues. Regardless of how much of my life is in it, it's a great time to be alive and to experience the pleasures of art, and the pleasures of loving it.

***


Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Timelapse: Day Until Night

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The thrilling conclusion to my two-part series.
Timelapse: Day Until Night from David Chen on Vimeo.

Timelapse: Night Into Day

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Here's a crude timelapse video I made of the view from my apartment from night until day.


Timelapse from David Chen on Vimeo.

My First July 4th in Seattle

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Readers of this blog know that I've recently settled into an apartment in Seattle after a great deal of searching. I'm pretty happy with my new place in Belltown and anticipated that it would have a pretty solid view of the fireworks, but I had no idea how good. Below you'll find a video I shot and some photos I took of the show using my Canon 5D Mark II. These were all shot from my apartment out of my window.






A solid show, but it can't beat the crazy stuff we do back in Boston...

The Ravages of AIDS

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A powerful Reddit thread featuring the reflections of older people, many of them gay men, who were alive at the time and experienced the AIDS epidemic first-hand. Here's the top-voted comment:

I was just coming out at the time that AIDS came into public awareness ( I was 25 at the time). I had moved to Denver to kind of find myself and figure things out...to get away from my hometown. Not knowing anyone in Denver, I of course started making friends. Unfortunately, what happened was that a few months after I'd make a friend, they'd pass away from complications of AIDS. I attended just over 20 funerals the first year I was there. It was a scary time. Not only the fear of AIDS, but I started getting to where I was afraid to try to make any friends knowing that the chance of them dying from AIDS was extremely high.

There was also the fear of not knowing the specifics of how the disease was transmitted. It was strongly believed at the time it was sexual, but there was no information on other methods of transmitting it...casual contact? kissing? sharing eating utensils? No one knew, and everyone in the gay community was afraid. Over time, AIDS wiped out an entire generation of gay men. This has had an effect on the more recent generations since people that would normally have been mentors, big brother figures, teachers, etc. were gone, so the younger generation lost out on the wisdom and experience of the previous one. The worst thing was when my first gay friend (and my best friend), came to me two years after I moved back home, that he had AIDS. He told me how scared he was, and that he didn't want to die. He was one of the first group that was put on AZT as the one and only treatment at the time. He died 8 months later.

EDIT: Ok...so this is my very first posting on reddit. I'm OVERWHELMED by the responses. I had no idea it would take off like this! This has also brought me to tears many times...I have pushed all of this deep in the back of my mind for over two decades. Thank you everyone for your posts. It has really been healing for me to finally face the tragedy of the past, and at the same time, brought back a lot of very fond memories of the friends I've lost.

How To Make a Hit Basic Cable Network

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John Landgraf is the president of FX, a TV network that rose from the rubble to become one of the most exciting ones in existence. I found his recent interview with Kim Masters on KCRW's The Business to be hugely insightful and fascinating. In particular, Landgraf reflects on his decision to pass on Breaking Bad, a decision that he doesn't necessarily regret, but one that he certainly would have done differently today. Check out the whole thing below (the interview begins 6 minutes in):

 

One of my favorite bits occurs when Landgraf discusses the uselessness of focus groups:

People don't always know what they want. That's the problem with research and the problem with focus groups. I mean, what group of people could tell you "What we really want is Avatar," or "what we really want is South Park" or "What we really want is The Simpsons"? Those things didn't exist in anything like that form before they existed, and people love them. So, creative people's jobs is to imagine the existence of things that don't exist, and people can't always tell you what they want and they're often confused by really innovative work. Until they're not.