Category: News

As a creative professional, I’m fascinated by how the news and culture can serve as a way to inspire creativity and examine new trends. Here I share some of my thoughts on the news and the zeitgeist.

Mental Health and Family: New Essay at Narratively

Last week I had my essay, “How to Get Your Paranoid Mother into the Poisonous Ambulance,” published at Narratively — considered a top 50 website by Time Magazine. Besides having the capability to tell my story on such an incredible platform, I was lucky enough to have the piece accompanied by illustrations from Danielle Chenette, an animator, illustrator, and printmaker originally from Millbury, Massachusetts, living and working in Chicago. I love her illustrations, and it really helped capture the theme of Mommy Dearest, which was the editorial focus of Narratively for the week leading up to Mother’s Day.

This publication was special for many reasons, but it ultimately marked a completion of a difficult journey within my writing. If you haven’t read the piece, then let me fill you in a bit. It’s the story of when I hard to return home when my mother was off her medicine and missing in Massachusetts. She has bipolar, and for most of my life, our family has had to handle the ups and downs of the disorder. It was November, 2013, and I flew home to try to convince my mother (with the of my brother) to voluntarily head into a hospital with a higher level of care to help her find equilibrium.

Illustration by Danielle Chenette
Illustration by Danielle Chenette

Well, writing this essay — and even that above paragraph — is truly monumental for me, because it marks a major transition artistically and personally. For most of my life, I’ve kept my mother’s illness a secret, but I have often felt the need to write about it. In fact, it’s almost been a compulsion, and I’ve told versions of this story before, but I’ve never told it in the memoir form and put the stamp of truth upon the pages…until now. The story of dealing with mental illness is so important because most people keep it a secret. But why is it such a secret? Why are we so embarrassed with the imbalance of the mind? How do we tell the stories we so desperately need to tell?

But even a harder question: How do we tell those stories without hurting the people we love? That question has always stopped me from truly writing the way I needed to write. I always felt that I was going to hurt someone when I told these stories, but in the piece, I didn’t hold back. I had a wonderful editor during this process who pushed me to tell the truth in a way that was authentic and real.

In the end, I wasn’t just afraid of what my mother would think about the stories — or other members of my family — and I wasn’t afraid that people would judge my mother and think of her in a negative way. To provide a bit more insight, here is what I wrote on Facebook when I shared the story:

I almost didn’t share my essay that was published on Narratively yesterday to my personal Facebook page, because it’s a personal story and ultimately people will recognize the individuals involved…potentially judging them negatively. So I asked my brother what he thought (since he is in the story), and he pointed out that hopefully more good will come from sharing it than bad. Well, I hope that’s the case. Mental health shouldn’t be something we hide and ignore. I hope it’s something we can embrace while learning to empathize with the individuals who are suffering.

Illustration by Danielle Chenette
Illustration by Danielle Chenette

Only one person (at least that I’m aware of) criticized me for sharing this story, and this person was actual a member of my family. I don’t really talk to her anymore because of her attitude toward mental health, but she wrote on the Facebook post with the intention of shaming me for sharing a story about my family that she deemed personal. But there were so many other people who wrote to me either on the Facebook post or through a private message expressing how much they valued my courage in sharing the story. In fact, someone I greatly respect wrote: “Silence killed my mom. Thanks for sharing, Joseph Lapin.” So I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who read the piece without judgement and with compassion. It means the world.

Why is mental illness still such a stigma? Why are we scared to share that our minds can become just as sick as our lungs or our cells? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’m suddenly more confident than ever to tell my stories. Hopefully I’ll find a way to answer some of the above questions along the way.

The Working Poet Radio Show Returns to Miami

If you’ve been following this blog, then you probably know about The Working Poet Radio Show — a podcast and talk show dedicated to the working lives of creative people. I’ve taken a break from the project for a few months to focus on work and my own creative writing, but I restarted WPRS again thanks to The Center for Writing and Literature at Miami Dade College, and we’re back with our first live show that will take place in my home away from home — Miami, Florida.

About a month ago, I received an email from Marci Cancio-Bello, a program coordinator at The Center, the editor of Print-Orientated Bastards, a poet, and a good friend. She had an idea about bringing WPRS to Miami for National Poetry Month, and she was able to make this a reality.

On Friday, April 17th, WPRS will return for one night to put on a show in Wynwood for National Poetry Month. Our guests, so far, are MacArthur Genius poet Campbell McGrath and Pulitzer Prize winning Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste.

Our musical guests will be the fantastic Raffa and Rainer. When I was in Miami as a graduate student, I remember listening to them at events and just being floored with the way they could captivate a room.

WPRS will be produced by Marci Cancio-Bello, and I’m so grateful to have her and The Center as part of the team. If you have any questions about the event — or how you can be involved with WPRS — leave a comment below.

Make sure you check out O, Miami, before WPRS on Friday night. There will be a special release party for Jai-Lai Magazine. I’ll have more information on this event soon, too.

Newest Episode of The Working Poet Radio Show with Michael Semanchik

Below you will find a podcast that dives deep into an unsolved murder trial, explores how lawyers are creatives, and riffs on beer and Brian Williams. Let me explain. If you’ve been following this blog, then you’re probably aware that I recently moved to San Diego from Los Angeles. While I was living in Los Angeles, I started a great project called The Working Poet Radio Show, which explores the working lives of creative people. This project has been on hold over the last few months, but we’re having some rumblings about taking the project to Miami for a live show in April, and I’ve decided to revive the podcast…in a smaller capacity.

For this episode of WPRS, I interviewed Michael Semanchik of the California Innocence Project. He wrote a great blog post on Brian Williams, which looked at the complications of memory and how that applies to expert witnesses and his larger work with the Innocence Project, and I wanted to sit down and talk to him more about his work and how is role can be creative. We ended up discussing everything from DNA to a murder case that takes place in the rural parts of San Bernardino. Plus, in the third section of the podcast, we talked about beer and Brian Williams during the “True and False” portion of the show, and we were joined by special guest Robert Lee of Circa Interactive. Take a listen below or on WPRS.

Instant Reaction from Patriots Super Bowl Victory

I can not believe what just happened. My heart is racing, and I’m still wearing the same Tom Brady jersey that I’ve been sporting all season. My wife is thrilled that I’ll finally wash the smelly thing. My dad and brother are at the Cask n’ Flagon just outside of Fenway Park, screaming and yelling with thousands of other Massholes. Somewhere Richard Sherman is crying over a bowl of Campbell’s chunky soup that his mom brought to him from a helicopter. My cowboys’ fan friend, Dan Stroud, is taking off his Seahawks jersey and wondering why he is such a fair weather fan and when the Cowboy will make the Super Bowl. (Never again!) Gronkowski is already dancing. Brady and Belichick are probably having a staring contest and then hugging after someone loses. Patriots nation is in utter pandamonium. And I’m just sitting here, completely amazed that an undrafted free agent from the University of West Alabama made the play of his life after he had a vision that he would play a part in one of the biggest moment in SB49. This is a Super Bowl that will go down in history, and because blogs are so much about the moment — almost artifacts of cultural consciousness — I wanted to share some of my rapid reactions.

Pete Carroll’s Goal-line Call

For the rest of Pete Carroll’s career, he will be questioned and lambasted for his decision to pass on 2nd and goal instead of running Beast Mode up the the middle. It’s a silly call, and it probably cost the Seahawks the game, but after hearing what Carroll had to say about the decision puts the strategy in perspective. According to Carroll, the Patriots were in their goal-line defense, and the Seahawks had three wide receives on the field. In that formation, it makes sense to catch the Patriots off guard and pass for what would be an easy touchdown. Unfortunately for Pete and the 12, Malcolm Butler just made the play of his life, and he will always be remembered in Massachusetts and New England as long as American life exists.

Bill Belichick’s No Call

While Pete Carroll will forever be associated with his terrible call in the fourth quarter, I have a feeling that Bill Belichick will not receive the respect he deserves for his no call in that goal-line situation. After Lynch ran for a couple of yards on first down, the clock was ticking down, and I couldn’t believe that the hoodie wasn’t calling a time out to ensure that Brady had enough seconds to score a touchdown or at least set up a field goal. However, he didn’t call a time out. I was screaming at the television for him to call a time out, but he didn’t. He just left his players on the field. I actually think this was a legendary decision. By not calling the time out, which I’m sure the Seahawks were expecting, it caused indecision on the Seahawks sideline. They eventually called the play that would lead to the biggest interception of the game. At the end of the game, the hoodie said the Seahawk’s decision to pass didn’t surprise him. Could he really be that smart in that situation? He does always preach situational football.

Malcolm Butler is a Football Prophet

I’m so thankful that we’re talking about Malcolm Butler’s incredible interception on the one-yard line instead of Jermaine Kearse’s freakish catch. Butler’s interception was about preparation. In the post game, Butler mentioned that he had seen that play in film study before, and he read the play and reacted. That’s one thing about the Patriots that is often overlooked: They study harder than any team in the NFL. Butler said that he had a vision of a similar play, and this just goes to put more value in the idea of visualization in sports. He saw what he needed and followed through. What’s the most unbelievable part of Malcolm Butler’s journey is that he was an undrafted free agent. He turned heads on the practice field in the preseason, and he was recognized by the coach. That’s what I love about the Patriots: It doesn’t matter what your name is, it doesn’t matter where you were drafted, it only matters how you play.

Richard Sherman’s Face

The only reason I hate Richard Sherman is because he’s not on my team. If he was on my side, I would love him. I would love his swagger. I would love his skill. I would love his stupid commercials and his need for attention. But because he’s not on my team, I only have one question for you Richard:  Screenshot 2015-02-01 20.48.38

In the end, this is one of the best games I’ve seen as a football fan. Just take a look at the difference in these two reactions. Congrats Patriots Nation. Now enough about football for a while. Back to writing a novel.

Thoughts on the Zeigeist: Deflategate and Balls, Balls, Balls

Deflategate

It’s been a week since the news that 11 out of the 12 footballs the Patriots used in their game against the Indianapolis Colts were reported to be under inflated. The New England Patriots’ footballs were allegedly filled to 10.5 PSI — two pounds below the league minimum. An uproar ensued and America demanded football justice. Bill Belichik and Tom Brady were seen awkwardly answering questions in front of a media that were firing off probing questions as if they were interviewing Obama after he announced that America was planning to invade Canada for their maple syrup. Now the Patriots legacy is under question, and the evidence seems to suggest the Patriots are a bunch of freaking cheaters.

So, yeah, I’m a Patriots fan. I’m almost an obsessed Patriots fan. I read more articles on the Patriots in a given day than any man should, and I study formations, bench players, and strategy as if I thought any day the hoodie would call me up on the phone after a key injury and ask me if I wanted to suit up. “I’m ready coach.” As my brother-in-law says, I’m almost as much of a homer as the guy in the Saturday Night Live skit below, Dougie Spoons. “You think you can do what Brady does?”

Here is why I’m a Patriots fan. I’m from Massachusetts, and while I can’t stand the winters or the short days and the cold, I love my home. I love where I’m from, but I haven’t lived there in almost ten years. I have friends there, and I am aware that I am who I am today because of Clinton, Massachusetts. It built me. So I root for the Patriots, because I’m cheering for my roots. The Patriots represent something about my hometown that sports teams like the Packers and Steelers accomplish for their respected cities. We’re a bunch of wicked hard-working people who battle awful weather. People in Massachusetts are rugged, strong, grumpy; we work jobs that put callouses on our hands; we drink Dunkin Donuts coffee instead of that Seattle crap; and we never quit. We never quit believing that life is about hard work, family, and showing up every day as if it’s our last. We are underdogs. (Of course, this isn’t all Massholes, but these are the ones I love.)

Enter Tom Brady. He’s a quarterback that was benched at Michigan. He was a player who showed up at the NFL combine who looked like he was actually about to be examined for scoliosis.  He is an athlete who no one ever thought would be successful. He was a sixth round draft pick. Now, he is on his way to be the greatest quarterback of all time. He renegotiated his contract to give his team a discount in an era where free agents try to acquire the most money. He never quits. Every year, he leads a team with people like Julian Edelman, Alan Branch, Jermaine Wiggins, Shane Vereen, James Develin — football players who played different positions in college or couldn’t find a spot on any other team. He leads a team of people who were unwanted, undesired…cast off. And they play like a team. They preach team first. They are Massachusetts.

I consider myself an underdog. In high school, I couldn’t even spell, and I had no idea what a comma splice was. I received a D minus my freshmen year in English; I was told that being a writer is like trying to find a way to travel to the moon with a go-kart; and I’m trying to prove everyone wrong. I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m hungry, angry. So how do you think I took the news of deflategate?

It hurt. To think that the team I believe in is using a competitive advantage, one as bush league as deflating footballs, it was like someone just told me my best friend was spitting in my beer every time I went to the bathroom for four years. I wanted to believe that it wasn’t true. It had to be the weather. There had to be an explanation. I’m still a bit torn about this; Bill Nye the Science guy even came out and said Belichik was full of shit:

<iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/dZFiYxI3DFM” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

It’s a bit suspicious though that Bill Nye is a Seahawks fan. There are so many questions surrounding deflategate (Did the hoodie give the order? Did Brady instruct one of his ball boys to deflate the balls? Didn’t Brady look like he was hiding something in his press conference?) that led anyone with common sense to think that the Patriots are, in fact, a bunch of cheaters. The way that the evidence stands, right now, seems to me that someone in my beloved organization is cheating.

The worst statistic that I have found was a graph on fumbles. People are talking about how Brady was the one deflating the balls to ensure a better grip and a better quality ball, but if the Patriots are deflating balls, then it’s not for the aerial attack; it’s more for the running game and yards after the catch. Look at this graph on fumbles from Slate:

150123_SNUT_Fumble-01.png.CROP.original-original

As you can see in the graph, the Patriots had far more offensive plays per fumble than the second best team in the NFL. It’s almost not even comparable. How could they be that much better at ball security. Granted, the hoodie does preach and practice ball security in innovated ways, and he even had a runner, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who went an entire year without a fumble. While this seems like a great stat, someone actually looked at his fumbles with the Patriots compared to his fumbles with his next team, the Bengals. From 2008 to 2011, Green-Ellis didn’t have a fumble once with the Patriots. In two seasons with the Bengals, he fumbled a total of five times.

When I look at whether or not the Patriots are guilty, I see a lot of data that suggests that they are, but it’s still not proven.

On the way home today, I heard Boomer Esiason on the radio talking about the Patriots and whether or not they were cheaters. He made an excellent point. In the game against the Colts, Tom Brady under threw Shan Vereen by about five yards. He threw an under thrown interception, where he had Gronk open over the middle. He wasn’t performing well, so if he did deflate the ball the technique wasn’t working. Also, why would Belichik call a second press conference and emphatically state that there was no wrong doing from the Patriots after his first press conference. He knows his legacy is on the line, and he knows that people are suspicious: would he really double down on his teams’ innocence, publicly and emphatically, if we was still cheating? Think about Barry Bonds: he ducked the media on the steroid question.

The answer could be yes, but we don’t really know.

I read another theory from the Boston Globe that was intriguing. Chuck Pagano was the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens with John Harbaugh, who was pissed that the Patriots used “trick” plays with ineligible receivers  in the divisional championship round. People are starting to get suspicious of a revenge plot from Harbaugh. What I’m reading is that perhaps Pagano and Harbaugh were scheming together to make it look like the Patriots were deflating their balls.

Yes I know that I’m making some paranoid, Homeland type conspiracy theories here, but Harbaugh is pissed. Could it be possible that the Colts inflated their balls outside in the cold temperature, knowing that the balls would lose air if the balls were inflated inside, in order to make it seem like the Patriots were cheating? Could the Patriots actually be innocent? Well, in the words of the great Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett, anything is possible…Let’s go Patriots! Your comments are always appreciated. Hopefully we can start talking about the game this week.