Agenda Spam

Having moved from Nashville in December of 2011, I spent January of 2012 settling in to a new apartment and job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I made some new friends, grew a bitchin’ ponytail, and things were going alright for a while. Smooth sailing didn’t last too long though, and I ended up quitting my job. I was in a wedding party, so I stuck around for a bit, but by the end of March I left Iowa. At 28 I moved back in with my parents. Seriously. So, given my situation, I did what any 28 year old bachelor living with their parents would do and I grew a scraggly depression beard. I also walked away from what had been my online home for the previous seven years, turning over the keys for some quick cash to help me get by until I figured things out.

I eventually got antsy just kicking around and hopped on a train bound for Montana to visit a friend. A few weeks later I took a Greyhound to Des Moines, and another to Kansas City, before things fell apart again. I busted up my ankle something fierce, and lugged my worthless swollen limb home on another bus back to Minneapolis (with tail firmly between legs). Somewhere along the way I re-grew man-boobs. I also decided to move back to Nashville. (It’s a helluva town.)

I made my transitional plans on the go and set up a place to live over Craigslist. I loaded up a moving truck and drove my stuff from Minneapolis to Nashville. A month later I secured a new apartment in the building I’d previously lived in, re-loaded my stuff into another moving truck, and with the help of some amazing friends, hauled my things up three flights of stairs into my new apartment. One step forward, two steps back: another emotional breakdown. But this time I reacted differently… My hair was getting a little out of control, so I cut it off. Then I turned 29 and lost a bunch of weight. That’s my 2012… almost.

A year ago this week I set a list of goals for myself, and for the first time in forever I actually made some of the changes I said I was going to make. Not only did goals stick, but they helped me discover a version of myself that I didn’t know existed. All the breakdowns and self-sabotaging make for interesting character-development stories, but the brief little section about me getting my shit together remains the most important part of my year. Old Chris, let me introduce you to New Chris, who will continue to steer the ship from here on out. You’ve put in plenty of years and we thank you for that, but I’m sorry: your services will no longer be needed here at DeLine Co.

So, with new management firmly installed, the idea is to once again set the tone for drastic change by claiming a few bold resolutions for the coming year… because that’s what successful people do, right?

I’ve not been good about my physical health. My weight goes up, then down, then up, then down… But the ups and downs aren’t a few pounds here and there: they’re embarrassing 20 pound swings. It’s not as if the metabolism fairy cursed me with some wild dysfunction though: it happens because my tendency has been to eat and drink too much without keeping an eye out for exercise. Mystery solved: you’re fat because you eat too much. However, for most of 2012 I didn’t really do much to change my patterns. I said I was changing, and even changed for a few days at a time, but it was mostly just hot air. Until I actually changed.

I started the year weighing 225 pounds. Just a few months before that I was down around 205. See what I mean? So, I wanted to drop 40 pounds in 2012, because why not? I ended up losing about 28 pounds. Not a triumphant victory, but pretty pretty pretty pretty good. I began going to the gym every day. (I ended up reading the mammoth 1100 page Infinite Jest in its entirety while riding a stationary bike.) And I started making better decisions about what I was eating. At my lowest I was down about 33 pounds. I’ve been putting in overtime on crafting excuses to eat poorly and not work out during the holidays however, which is why I’ve gained some back.

One of the most valuable mental changes I started making to help this process has just been to ask myself “what is it I really want?” Not only that, but I also started demanding answers. No more waffling. Because of this I’ve started to become more present and this self-questioning has slowly changed from being a forced practice to an automatic response: What am I doing, what is the likely outcome, and does it help or hurt my goals? It’s almost too simple. But it’s not like the guide to living well is restricted to deciphering ancient Sumerian tablets, ripe with volumes of convoluted prophetic wisdom. The concepts are easy, the doing is difficult.

In this context, agenda spam is the T.V. show that I “want” (there’s that word again) to watch. Agenda spam is the junk-food that I “want” to eat, it’s the snooze-button I “want” to hit, it’s the urge to not “want” to do sit-ups, and it’s the aimless Internet browsing I “want” to partake in. Granted, sometimes you gotta just blow things off and relax. Youbetcha. But y’know what feels better than waking up late and watching The Fresh Prince for a few hours while OD-ing on Grumpy Cat photos? Doing things. Actually doing things that matter beyond serving temporary “want”s.

I figured I could lose 40 pounds if I tried, maybe, but I didn’t know why exactly I was trying, which is partially why I didn’t start, and why I’ve always put the weight back on. But the picture became more clear this year. The weight isn’t really just weight to me. Family and friends have told me that I shouldn’t worry about it so much, but physically looking “better” wasn’t the point of wanting to lose weight. I don’t want a gut and man-boobs, that’s for sure, but, y’know, those things happen. Same goes for being “healthier”… it’s nice in theory, but it’s never been important in practice. It turns out that I wanted to lose weight because of what losing weight actually represents to me. It’s unmet potential.

I know I can do better, but when it comes down to it I wasn’t eating healthier and exercising because I didn’t give two shits one way or the other about myself. It’s a sad truth, but it is the truth. Putting weight on at scary rates hasn’t just been me getting fat, it’s been a physical manifestation of my attitude of not-giving-a-shit. When I recognized that I started trying. And things started changing. And I started giving a shit. Then I started trying more. And things started changing more. And when my actions began to prove that change was not merely hypothetical, the “fuck it” attitude stopped returning because it was no longer welcome. As my old Economics professor used to say: That dog don’t hunt. Not no more, it don’t.

In 2013 I’m going to lose the rest of the 40 pounds. I’m almost there. When I do that it will be the first year I didn’t lose weight, only to gain all it all back in the matter of months. It’s going to feel good, but again: the weight isn’t really the aim here… the lifestyle tweaking that facilitates the weight loss is the goal. That’s what I’ve been missing and to some degree, that’s what I’ve never actually had. I am physically and mentally capable of losing weight. I’ve lost a minimum of 20 pounds every year for the past four years. I’ve done the work, I’ve put in the hours, but I’ve also gained the weight right back. Until I get the day-to-day lifestyle changes down, the potential for dramatic swings will continue to exist. I can upgrade my sandwich to a foot-long for only $2, or I can not. I can avoid going to the gym or I can go. What is it I really want? Okay. Good. Now do it.

Robert McIntosh’s “Pretty Sweet” Quadcopter

A beautiful French film-buff friend of mine recently turned me on to the Channel Four documentary series The Story of Film. As it turns out, when a beautiful French film-buff recommends that I watch something, I’m 100% more likely to watch it, even if that “it” turns out to be a 15-part series of one-hour episodes covering a century-plus in cinematic history. (Despite its imposing length, The Story of Film is brilliant and I highly recommend it.) Somewhere between the eighth and ninth hours we’re introduced to Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 film I Am Cuba, as narrator Mark Cousins uses his Irish drawl to slowly trace the camera’s path through an innovative sequence in the film.

"The camera seems to levitate. Wide angle lens, handheld, beautiful exposure, slow motion. [...] The camera climbs a building; a crane shot so beautiful that in the ’90s, after years of I Am Cuba being forgotten in America, it was shown at the Telluride Film Festival, impressed Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola and was re-released. But then the camera crosses the street, still no cut. It moves to the end of this room. A flag’s unfurled, and we glimpse two wires in the sky. The camera’s attached to those wires then floats out over the funeral down the canyon of a Havana street."

It’s a seductive and remarkable shot regardless of the time period.

Cut to the new collaboration from skateboard companies Girl and Chocolate titled Pretty Sweet. Co-directed by Ty Evans, Spike Jonze, and Cory Weincheque (the trio was also behind 2007′s award winning special effects bonanza Fully Flared), Pretty Sweet opens with what first appears to be a swooping crane shot, capturing a school-yard skate session. Quickly the scene escapes the reaches of any crane however, extending the frame as it follows a daisy chain of skaters before a series of confetti canons bring the single-shot introduction to its celebratory close.

Granted, I don’t think I’ve seen another skate-vid since Fully Flared was released, but still, the entire thing is gorgeous. Here’s a brief Pretty Sweet trailer:

The sweeping endless crane effect in Pretty Sweet was shot using a remote control heli-camera navigated by Robert McIntosh. While the idea of strapping a camera to a remote-controlled helicopter to capture first-person view (FPV) isn’t unique to McIntosh (Luke Phillips’ videos are also stunning, and YouTube has a great selection of other amateur copter-cams), McIntosh blends his unique background and skill-set to give his videos their awe-inspiring effect. A computer animator who has worked on such films as Spider Man and Toy Story, McIntosh’s quadcopter uses a custom stabilizing device and proprietary software that help lend his clips their unique flavor. Take for instance his beautiful “Weekend in SF” video, which earlier this year found some momentum online when it was featured by a few high-profile sites including The Atlantic.

Ongoing discussion surrounding the clips speaks to the questionable legality of such shots, which possibly come in violation of FAA regulations. “Radio-controlled helicopters have also been the target of regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration,” notes an SF Bay blog post. “Commercial use of RC helicopters has been grounded by the FAA until final rules are written. And any rules are certain to forbid swooping around mere feet over people’s heads.” But The Man be damned: the range of such gorgeous aerial visuals is absolutely breathtaking and I applaud McIntosh for his work, regardless of its legal status. And when going through McIntosh’s portfolio of work (Vimeo, YouTube) I can’t help but wonder what directors of yesteryear might have come up with had they been blessed with the technological gifts employed by today’s generation of visual-art creators. The story of film rolls on…