Tag: paris

Thoughts on the Zeitgeist: Patriots Ravens, Obama in Paris & the Pope in Diapers

Design by Joseph Lapin
Design by Joseph Lapin

Today I’m beginning a new series called “My Thoughts on the Zeitgeist.” Let me explain. In my role as creative director at Circa Interactive, I have to stay on top of the media to create content that taps into larger trends. I have to remain cognizant of the broader narratives for journalism. I have to understand what’s ahead and building to a boiling point in order to create timely blog content. And I have to continue to find ways to keep my creative pieces relevant by following the world as closely as possible. At work, when we’re in that moment, in the spirit of the times, we call this tapping into the zeitgeist. So I’m always reading the news, and I figured I could use this strategy a bit more for my blog posts. I decided to start a series on my blog that examines a few stories in the media (sports, culture, law, finance, marketing, SEO, literature, etc) and comment on them. Simple as that. This will be the first week.

1. “Bipolar Wackos” in the NFL Playoffs

As you may know, I’m a huge Patriots fan. Tom Brady is a superstar that was once an underdog. I find the team inspiring, and in terms of digital media, the Patriots website is one of the leaders in advancing content marketing and sports business. Like most people, I was absorbed in the playoff game between the Ravens and the Patriots, and I must have read every single article on Twitter about the game and the strange formations.

While I was going trough my twitter feed this morning, a story on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s coverage that caught my attention. It was about a fight between Steve Smith, current Ravens wide receiver, and Jermaine Wiggins, former New England Patriot tight end who became a legend in the tuck-rule game. The big story was that Steve Smith approached Wiggins after the game to let him know that he was upset over being called a bully. Sure, this sounds like two middle schoolers fighting in the parking lot after a baseball game, but it’s sports. So I’m not expecting a conversation analyzing the plot of “American Beauty.”

Scott Zolak, a former Patriot who interviews Belichick on the Bellestrator (the hoodie breaks down film of previous games, and it’s incredible), starts to give a play-by-play of the incident. I’m listening and intrigued, but then he says this: “Steve Smith is a diminutive guy. He’s about as big as Bob Socci. Everything we talked about last week with Suggs being the nut job, the bipolar wacko…”

That’s when I stopped. Did he just say bipolar wacko? A journalist, a commentator, a respected professional in the media really just used bipolar wacko, the nut job, on the radio? Honestly, this comment shows ignorance on the part of Scott Zolak, and it’s a nuisance for anyone who has ever lived with someone with bipolar disorder. If you have needed to help someone who has bipolar, you know how difficult it can be show them that they have an illness, because it’s such a stigma, especially in their own mind. The illness is still viewed as a failure, and people with mental illness have enough problems in the world than to have ridiculous stereotypes and ignorance being shared on the radio.

Okay, I know what you’re saying. I’m being the PC police. Learn to chill out. Take a joke. Well, Scott Zolak is not a comedian. This is a normal conversation on sports radio, and a journalist is using such an ignorant and lazy description to describe one of the most unique characters in the NFL. Don’t get me wrong here, I still have a lot of respect for Scott Zolak and think he’s a great commentator, but I just wish people took more care for how they used the word bipolar and developed a better understanding of the nuances and complications of mental illness. Perhaps Zolak actually does. If so, I wish he would have shown it.

2. Obama Didn’t Show Up in Paris. So? 

Credit: Joseph Lapin
Credit: Joseph Lapin

The terrorist attacks in Paris were atrocious. Je Suis Charlie. C’est vrai. The protection of freedom of speech is essential. I believe America clearly stands with Paris in terms of finances, policy, and security issues.

But Obama is taking a lot of heat for not being in Paris to join 1.5 million people, including many important global leaders, who marched down the Boulevard Voltaire on Sunday in a show of unity against extremism. We sent Eric Holder instead, and the world is insulted that Obama or Biden didn’t show up in person.

The White House has since acknowledged that they should have sent a higher ranking official. I just think this criticism is really unfair. Think about it: For one moment German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, French President François Hollande and other European and African leaders were in one spot. They were standing together. Yes, it was a great message sent to the terrorists that we were not scared, that we were not bothered by their terror tactics, that we would stand up to extremism everywhere we find it, but it was also like putting a target on the back of every one of those leaders and inviting an opportunity for disaster. In one awful moment, the world could have lost some of its best leaders.

Yes, I get it. That’s the point. Show them we’re not scared. I love the idea. It was a momentous occasion that will definitely go down in the history books, but should Obama ignore his intel? Should Obama ignore the threat? Should he wave the middle finger in front of killers and dare them to kiss his ass?

We were there. Obama was there. I am there. Anyone who believes in human rights was there. I don’t doubt that about Obama. I just believe his staff made a decision they thought was right based on the information they had.

I mean, look what Ted Cruz wrote: “The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values.”


3. Now Time for Something Funny 

Credit Derek Peto
Credit Derek Peto

Pope Francis is kind of rock star. He’s seen as a man of the people, and he rides buses and drives old cars instead of going for a spin in a fancy pope mobile. ABC News even reported that he sneaks out of the vatican in tattered clothes as a disguise to treat the homeless and sick. He sounds like a hell of a guy, honestly, and I’m not religious at all.

What’s fascinating about Pope Francis this week is that he’s due to visit the Philippines. When the Pope shows up in Manila, he’s expected to draw an enormous crowd that will put security and facilities at capacity. This is forcing many people in Manila to, well, flip a shit.

“About 2,000 traffic enforcers who will be on duty during the Jan. 15-19 papal visit will be required to wear adult diapers, said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino,” reports the AP.

That’s 2,000 government officials in diapers. When I see images of that crowd all I’ll be able to think about is 2,000 people potentially pooping in their pants. It’s not just traffic enforcers either. The people attending the event are also encouraged to wear diapers.

Well, that’s it for my thoughts on the media this week. I’ll probably try this again. Finally, I wanted to leave you with something Aziz Ansari recently tweeted at Ruport Murdoch.

Finding a Voice by Killing Your Darlings

Design: Joseph Lapin
Design: Joseph Lapin

As you may have read in last week’s Sunday blog post, I just returned from my honeymoon, and the trip helped reawaken the artistic spirit. Paris and Barcelona were an inspiration, but now that I have had this great revelation — or reawakening — what the hell does that mean? Yes, I have a new profound interest in photography, and I’m rededicated to writing stories, poetry, and other creative projects in the small amount of free time that I actually have, but what’s the goal? What’s the plan? How do I ensure that the revelations I had during my honeymoon don’t become a faded out dream like an old photo of a friend that I’ve stashed away in a box underneath my bed and pulled out years later only to say: “Oh yes, I remember him.” I’ll explain what I mean below while sharing some more photos from the honeymoon.

Kill Your Darlings 

The first step is the hardest: Kill your darlings. As I’ve mentioned, when I left graduate school and moved to California, I had a bunch of writing — a novel in stories and a collection of poetry — and I truly believed in these pieces. Some of them have been published but others have not. So after some difficult examination — and yes, a four-year opportunity to reflect — I’ve decided it’s time to move on. I went back into my collection of poetry and just started deleting poem after poem (keeping some), realizing that I must start over. My novel in stories: well, I’m not even going to look at that for a bit more but try to reimagine the themes and the stories new. For now, they’re in the trash.

Photo credit: Joseph Lapin: Another attempt at black and white photography
Photo credit: Joseph Lapin: Another attempt at black and white photography

This has been incredibly difficult, and it’s the artistic equivalent of having an identity crisis. Basically, I’m trying to define what I hope to look and feel and sound like through my writing, and I’m going trough the painful act of destroying the old parts that don’t seem to work anymore. As if I’m throwing the digital strips of my past into the furnace, I can hear a voice calling out to be saved. I want to reach into the digital fire and save them (it’s so easy to recover deleted documents in the Internet age), but I have to admit that my writing wasn’t working in the way I wanted it to…that’s not easy…though there is clearly much worse out there.

I’m thinking of something I heard about Franz Kafka right before he died. He was on his deathbed, and he asked his friends to burn all his manuscripts and his journals. Of course, his friend didn’t listen, and he went and published them anyway. I wonder if I would have the courage, if none of my work wasn’t actually backed up anywhere, to throw an entire manuscript in the fire, to watch it burn and become ash, to watch a part of myself disappear.

I’ve read stories about men and women who walked away from everything they know, from their families, from their states, from their homes, to pursue something different, perhaps important, and that type of permanence, that type of goodbye, is terrifying. I’m watching the Leftovers right now after reading Tom Perrotta’s book, and The Guilty Remnant amaze me as characters. Basically, after the rapture had taken away about a third of the population and people just disappeared, The Guilty Remnant are a group of people who left all their family members to join a new type of organization that believe the rules and social norms of the past were dead: family, friends, work, health. To say goodbye to something that was such an integral part of your life, to explaining your world, seems like one of the most difficult tasks, and it’s a decision, to say goodbye intentionally or unintentionally, that can happen in an instant.

Look at It From Another Angle

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

There is something else I learned about the act of changing a creative project, and the lesson has presented itself through photography and journalism. The photo above was taken on Bastille Day in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was the most amazing fireworks display I had ever seen. Sorry America. The fireworks were shooting straight out of the Eiffel Tower, and they were timed to accent the rhythms and the music being pumped into the air. Even the colors of the fireworks matched moods in the music. It was a true spectacular. I was having a very difficult time taking photos of the fireworks, however, because I didn’t have my tripod and couldn’t keep steady long enough to keep my shutter speed open and still capture crisp shots. So I pumped up the Iso. They came out decent but noisey, and they weren’t the quality I wanted. So I decided to just look at the photo differently, and I cropped it and suddenly the fireworks looked like pieces of wheat growing out of a steel Earth. That’s the photo above.

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin. Paris, Bastille Day.
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin. Paris, Bastille Day.

The same thought went into the photo above. I wasn’t quite getting the photo I wanted, so I just decided to find another angle. This is a skill I learned as a journalist: how to approach the story from different angles depending on the information you have at hand or the direction you want the story to go. Well, it’s something that I’m taking into my creative life. How can I look at the work I’m creating from the appropriate vantage point? Right now, I’m in an airplane flying above the middle of America on my way to a conference in Baltimore. A different angle can mean something so incredibly large — or it can mean just a slight variation. I have dozens of stories, dozens of journal entries, countless scenic sketches, hundreds of ideas — now it’s about finding the right angle to breathe life into the process. I’m thinking about an interview I conducted with a photographer named King Lawrence. He said, anyone can take a picture, but it’s the idea behind it that counts.

Finding a Voice

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

Finally, after all of this tearing up and destroying the old pieces of writing, I’m starting fresh and searching to finally define my voice. I’ve always felt I had a pretty strong sense of my identity as a writer, but I’ve realized that I don’t. I need to keep on finding my voice — basically the vehicle for the stories that I need to tell. I’ve been traveling a lot since I was 17. I’ve lived in Detroit, Bradenton, Miami, DeLand, Long Beach, Los Angeles, some time in Europe, and each place keeps on changing me drastically. But my hometown, Clinton, Mass, is where I was raised. In my work, I call it Kilroy, but I need to return to my roots a bit. I need to set some stories in the place where my voice was initially crafted. And I need to spend some time in one place artistically, finding a true sense, an authenticity, to speak again, to write, to create. That’s my plan of action. More next week and some announcements soon.


The Honeymoon in France and Spain: Reawakening the Artistic Spirit

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

My wife and I just returned from our honeymoon. Yes, it’s been a year and half since our wedding (aren’t more and more couples taking a later honeymoon?), but it couldn’t have been more perfect timing. As you might have read in my last post, I took a vacation from social media and blogging for the two weeks I was gone to rethink my writing priorities and goals, and I wanted to find a way to reawaken the artistic spirit, the sense than anything was possible with the written word.

When I left my MFA program at Florida International University, I had a novel in stories and a collection of poetry, and I thought that those two objects were the key to my future artistic endeavors. Many of those poems I have still not shared or tried to publish, but overall, I was not able to sell my novel in stories as a whole — just a few pieces. And since that time, I have focused more on journalism and radio shows and video production, and I have had some success, but before I left for the honeymoon, I could feel that my spirit for the written word, for creative projects, had been worn down by trying to take on too many things and achieve goals that were perhaps a distraction. I was working seven days a week and constantly looking at my phone for the next project, worrying about getting traffic, money, and more. But I found some places, some moments, during my honeymoon that helped remind me of the passion I have for creative projects, for the written word and for some new mediums, too.

The Architecture in Barcelona

Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin. Gaudi.
Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin. Gaudi.

My wife and I spent a few days in Barcelona, and I’ve heard so much about this city from friends and family that I already felt I had been to this city before. They all said I would love the place because of the art and the spirit of revolution (I’m the leftist in the family, I guess). It’s not often so many people talk with such gusto about a place. My wife, Heron, was particularly interested in the Guadi houses, so against every bone in my body that hates looking like a tourist, I reluctantly signed us up for a walking tour to see three Gaudi locations. I really didn’t know much about Gaudi at first, and honestly I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about architecture, but I found, like most people, Gaudi’s homes to be inspirations. I particularly liked the house above, which is called Casa Batlló. I love the colors and the sense of augmented reality, because that’s what I love about great art. I love writing and painting and music and design that moves the perspective of an object, an idea, a character, or a place flawlessly and seamlessly into the fantastic. I have plenty more photos I’ll be sharing on my Flickr page of Gaudi’s homes soon.

The Palau de la Música Catalana. Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin
The Palau de la Música Catalana. Photo Credit: Joseph Lapin

Of course, Barcelona isn’t all Gaudi architecture. Before I left for our trip, I was reading about Barcelona, and I came across the stained-glass ceiling above, and I couldn’t wait to photograph it. That’s my photo, and I’m proud of it, and I have many more shots of this ceiling. This stained-glass ceiling is in the Palau de la Música Catalana, which was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner — a rival of Gaudi. It’s truly a spectacular building that I recommend you see when you head to Barcelona, but it is way more expensive than it should be for a tour. The stained-glass is meant to resemble the sun, and once again, it’s one of those dream-like images, one of those cosmic visions of the sun emanating energy out into the world, a transcription of light and all that we can not see. Continue reading “The Honeymoon in France and Spain: Reawakening the Artistic Spirit”

On the Importance of Journaling–Paris and Joan Didion

So I’ve been having some trouble writing my memoir the last couple of days. It’s just been going like I’ve been writing with shards off glass on sandpaper.  I hate it.  I’ve been typing a lot recently, and it’s a different process than I’ve used before.  I always started out with a pen and paper and wrote the entire story by hand — then typing up the document at the end.

My journals on the shelf.

Well, I realized earlier today this was my problem.  There is something just too robotic, uncreative, mechanical about typing.  It makes me feel like I’m transcribing from a metal box rather than the unconscious.  So, I’m going to head back to that routine and see how it goes.  But it made me reflect some on the importance of journaling.

When I was in Paris, I wandered around a lot by myself.  I just walked around at night, and I remember I walked down the stairs at Le Petit Pont to sit by the Seine River and write.  It was night, and the Notre Dame was behind me.  I watched someone inside turn the lights off in the famous cathedral.  So I sat on the cobble stones, when a man in a full suit walked up to me.  I was sitting next to a trash can that was overflowing, and it kind of smelled.  The man said to me, “If you keep a journal, then a journal will keep you.”  It was like a dream.  I couldn’t believe it happened.

And after this mysterious person uttered that line, I wrote this in my journal: “That saying is pretty perfect for the way I feel.  I feel that my trips, my life, can somehow be captured in here.  My attempt to breakdown the boundary of the dream and reality (being awake).  Now I listen to reggae music on the crackling cobbled sidewalks running with the Seine.  On the other side, a man wails on the saxophone.  On the river, a boat churns the water where lights dance on the tiny waves.  I don’t know how to describe how I feel underneath the shadows of the Notre Dame…I’m supposed to be here.  However, this isn’t that romantic, because I’m by myself, and I can smell the trash.”

I will never forget what that man said to me.  “A journal keeps you.”  Well, I look on my shelf, and I see all my journals.  I have about 20 or so.  That’s where I am kept.  I exist within those notebooks.  My thoughts, my journey, my dreams, it’s all there.  And it’s only for me.

And it’s also the journey I took to learn how to be a writer.

Every time I take a road trip, I bring my journal.  I make sure to document as much as I can, while still living the experience.  But to me, writing about my life, writing about my thoughts, is my way of understanding my world.  Because the only way I really know how to think, to know something true, is to write about it.

Finally, I will leave you with a quote by Joan Didion from her essay: “On Keeping Notebook“: 

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearranges of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”