Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year That Was 2011: Holy crap, what just happened?

Like a steaming bowl of mashed potatoes, end-of-the-year recaps and best-of lists have become the comforting if somewhat bland staple of blogs during the last few weeks of the annum. You can certainly dress them up with gravy and butter and such (funny videos, surprisingly novel subjects, genuinely interesting dot connecting), but they are what they are: navel-gazing.

Which isn’t to say that staring deep into one’s own bellybutton can’t have constructive uses; honestly, we’d all do well to be at least a little bit more self-reflective.

So it is that I always find myself thinking back on the Year That Was—usually around the time my new day planner insert arrives in the mail. And this year, as I started to conjure up all the events and goals, frustrations and triumphs of the past year, all I could think was: WTF, 2011? WTF.

There are interesting times and then there are Interesting Times, and with the way things went this past year I can only imagine that the seeming glut of Big Happenings will only continue, if not get more hectic.

Worldwide you had the Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami (and ongoing nuclear catastrophe) in Japan, serious economic uncertainty, the long overdue deaths of several powerful madmen (OBL, Gadhafi, Kim Jong-il), a record tornado outbreak in the US, the Occupy movement, the terrorist attacks in Norway, the shooting of Rep. Giffords, the end of the space shuttle program, the royal freakin’ wedding—and it goes on and on….

Here in Wisconsin it was like the whole state was plunged rather suddenly and unexpectedly into a kind of political civil war back in February when still fresh-faced Gov. Scott Walker announced his “budget repair bill” (Act 10) that would strip public workers of their right to collective bargaining and otherwise significantly weaken their unions. Starting then, and especially after all of the Senate Democrats high-tailed it to Illinois to avoid a vote on the bill, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites descended on the Capitol building here in Madison to set up camp, protest, testify, for weeks—months—on end.

On the first real day of protest (Feb. 14, 2011), I found myself wedged between a marble wall and a crowd of people watching as Peter Rickman, who has since become one of the ubiquitous faces of the protest movement in Wisconsin, dumped pile after pile of “We Love UW” Valentine’s Day cards on the desk in front of the governor’s office. I watched as the group then filled the rotunda for a short while, chanting and waving signs, having no earthly clue just how often I was to see the same thing (and on a much, much larger scale) over the coming weeks.

Or just how much pizza would get sent/eaten, though (being wildly lactose intolerant) I never got to eat any of it myself.

That's a lot of folks.
I snapped a half-decent cell phone picture of the bigger crowd in the rotunda a few days later, posted it to Twitter, and suddenly my inbox began filling up with notifications of new follows, retweets, questions – people wanted to know what the heck is going on in Madison? I’ve spent much of my time, almost non-stop, trying to convey an answer through tweets, photos, videos, and essays about what I’ve been seeing unfold. Because with the recalls and new legislation and everything else, it hasn’t stopped.

What’s happened, and continues to happen, in Wisconsin isn’t the biggest story in the world—but it’s the biggest story for most of us who live here. This year has dramatically changed the way the citizens of this state interact with and think about one another, for better and for worse.

It’s still an overwhelmingly polite and hospitable place to land and live, but there’s a certain wariness and weariness evident even in those folks who, up until February, would never have called themselves political. Whatever you think about what Walker and the like are doing, we can all probably agree that it’s had a profound effect on Wisconsin.

In many ways, too, what happened at the Capitol last winter was the spark that set fire to the Occupy/99% movement. Many of the tactics, impromptu and planned, employed in Madison provided the template for some of what was done at Zuccotti Park. This unified outpouring of discontent would have happened with or without Wisconsin’s example, of course, but you can’t disconnect them, either.

Meanwhile, because this is a personal blog, I’m compelled to note just how much my own life changed in 2011, to point out the sheer volume of shit that went down in the last 12 months. It’s a little overwhelming to think about, honestly, especially in light of what it might mean for the next 12 months.

I turned 30 in November and someone asked me if I was where I had expected to be in my life. I had no answer, because I’ve honestly never put age deadlines on my goals and hopes. When I was a little girl I never thought, “I’m going to be married by this age!” or “I’m going to have kids by this age!” or “I’m going to own a house or make a living wage by this and that age!”

For better or worse, that’s just never been how I operate. What I had hoped, abstractly, was that, as I grew older, I would find a way to make money doing things about which I felt passionate and useful—and, in that regard, I can say (with a not inconsiderable amount of relief) that I’ve been pretty damn successful.

I don’t make a living wage…yet. But I get by with a little help from my partner and friends and community, all of whom I do my best, every day, to give something back to in return. And I do this as a writer, as a musician, as a part-time barista (because of course), as an event organizer, as an actor in a web series, as what I hope is a good partner and good friend.

I mean, I get paid to write articles and take pictures and do interviews with interesting people. How cool is that? How lucky is that? (Because I recognize that while I’ve worked really friggen hard for what I’ve got, it’s been pure luck that I was born where I was born, at the time I was born, raised by a particular, decently well-off family in an absurdly well-off country, etc. etc.)

The best band that ever banded.
And I had the good fortune to have some of my words and pictures included in two very excellent books about events in Wisconsin from this year. Lovely to be in such good company.

And I made a lot of wonderful new friends. And I got to go on tour with my band, which is made up of three of my best friends in the world, one of whom just had one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever met. One of them also co-wrote and produced a musical this year. And we opened for m-f’ing Tiffany. Not bad, not bad.

Oh and did I mention that I got married? I mean I’ve been with the guy for over seven years now so, yeah, shouldn’t have been a big surprise. It was just never one of those stated goals for me and so kind of crept up and was an entirely awesome shock to find myself standing in a friend’s backyard on an unseasonably gorgeous early September day saying “I do” to this incredible human being.

So there’s that.

And about a million other things, too, that I’ll leave out for the sake of brevity and privacy and also the realization that my life may be the most important thing in the world to me, but is not, in fact, the most important thing in the world to the world. I’m OK with that. It’s best that way. NOW GET OFF MY LAWN.

Now, then, what to do with this new year that promises to be even more thrilling and exhausting and world-changing than the last?

I don’t believe the world will literally end in December 2012 (the Mayans had to pick some date to stop writing their thousands-of-years-into-the-future calendar, after all). I do believe in massive change, though—the kind that alters the world we know so much that it may seem like a kind of apocalypse, and I’ll be buggered if it doesn’t feel like we’re smack in the middle of such a transition.

I got to eat a cupcake this one time in 2011. That was pretty cool.
I won’t guess at what that means for the world—I don’t have that kind of foresight or omniscience—but I can say that I predict 2012 will involve some upheaval in my own little life. I think I’m ready. I hope I’m ready.

Here’s wishing you all a year full of the right kinds of challenges, rewards, and good naptimes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New episodes of "Chapel" coming in January!

We just wrapped filming on TWO new episodes of our web series, "Chapel," and I'm actually really excited to see them finished. We had a really talented cast of people involved, the highest body count for an episode yet, and a nice mix of character development and action.

In other news, now that our butt-hurt wounds are mostly healed from that time Youtube inexplicably deleted all of our Chapel videos (and doesn't have a tech department to speak of to help with such instances) - we've decided to re-upload all of the episodes for easy watching there. New episodes will still debut on our Vimeo channel, but then eventually get posted to Youtube as well. Because The People Demanded It (well, a few did).

Here's a trailer to whet your appetite:

Did I mention I got to use a Tommy gun in the new episodes?
The Lost Albatross