A Sneak Peek Into Viceland

Have you ever watched a Vice documentary? I’m inclined to assume everyone has but that’s because I run in the very demographic that creates and consumes the content that Vice produces.

Vice originally launched as a government-subsidized magazine in 1994 when it was still titled Voice of Montreal. In 1996, the publication changed its name to Vice and has since evolved from a subculture indie magazine stocking the shelves of American Apparel to a $400 million dollar media conglomerate. Not bad for a ‘zine.

Between its Youtube popularity, digital news site, HBO-produced series, and Viceland, its newly announced network channel, Vice has been a craftsman of new opportunities for audiences to engage with hard-pressing issues. Viceland will be launched in February 2016 as a partnership with their $250 million dollar investor, A+E Network. A huge part of its notable success has been the freedom with which Vice reports on stories that are ignored by other media outlets. Essentially, its willingness to take risks like pushing back on a government illegally detaining one of their journalists, or creating shows about weed culture, the culinary adventures of a rapper from NYC, and the (often dangerous, often painful) day to day life reality for members of LGBTQ communities in different countries has paid off in dividends as people continue to tune in.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Vice’s story-telling and brand evolves with this significant new foothold in the market. Their sneak peek for the network in the video below is worth-watching and made me in awe of the complex, often unseen reality for people living all around us. Humanity is pretty incredible. And Vice knows it, too.

In Defense of Dreaming

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Platitudes about following your dreams are in no lack of supply.

With their moniker of positivity and nearly dogmatic insistence to consider a life more favorable, perhaps even more magical, than one’s present reality, the passive ease with which we share these messages is pretty common.

Far less available are quotes about the work it takes to achieve the reality we speculate on between our coffee cups at the job we hate, meal prep, or the bills we can’t seem to catch up with. Life, unless you hail from a home of significant financial privilege, doesn’t really make accommodations for our dreams. On the contrary, it provides an ample supply of dead ends, distractions, and reasons why our hopes should wait on the back-burner.

I believe there should be an anti-thesis to life’s ever-bearing prescription of discouragement, but hearing or saying (or sharing) “follow your dreams” doesn’t lead us anywhere at all. What I propose we begin sharing instead are small imperatives of action towards our dreams. Investments made on a daily basis. Active dreaming – “Begin dealing with your resentment so you can be the woman you want to be.” “Don’t make this frivolous purchase so you can be debt-free and own the home you have in mind.” “Remember that contact you made at last week’s conference? Email them. Now.”

I’m not sure about you.

But I don’t do well when I’m not actively dreaming.

When I stop imagining the possibilities I want to achieve for myself, my current and future family, or my career, I slip into a listless shell of myself.

Do you experience this, too?

I observe the lives of others and wonder why I feel like an outlier at times – Hungry to taste everything I’ve ever dreamed of and ridiculous enough to believe it’s possible if I put in the work.

Attending the Time 100 gala.
A consistent career as a writer.
Financial independence by 25.
A new country traveled each year.
A home to someday share with a husband and children.

Some of these dreams (many of which I won’t share, lest they turn into my responsibility) feel silly in their extravagance and others are simple rights I believe every person should be entitled to as a clause within the words “pursuit of happiness.”

I’m aware on the criticisms imposed on my generation – Criticisms that dismiss this ambition and energy by remarking that Millennials don’t have a grasp on the limitations imposed by the current market or corporate culture. However, I can’t entertain them because doing so would mean ceasing to grasp at opportunities for excellence or ingenuity the only way I know how; With unapologetic zeal. Instead, I hope to understand the current state of the industry (and broader context of the world) I belong to in order to most effectively expand or break it’s bounds.

We’re in an interesting space in time where our generation is criticized by fore-comers while we simultaneously transition into positions of leadership at established companies, create new ones, build movements, and inform campaigns.

I look forward to seeing what we build together.

Next to Normal – Dylan Moore

When I asked him when he first started drawing, Dylan Moore laughed.

“Growing up in the home of an art teacher,” he explained, “makes it hard to distinguish a beginning. I’ve always drawn.”

As naturally as one’s hand is an extension of the arm, so has Dylan Moore’s art been an extension of his life. His talent is due in part to being born to a creatively talented family and bestowed a namesake heritage including the likes of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas. The rest of it is credited to his relentless work at improving and capitalizing on the efforts that have carried him this far. Although he can’t remember when he began putting pen to paper, I remember the first time I was captivated by his work.

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I’d noticed Dylan, 24 years old and newly moved into Brooklyn, at church before. He sat in the row in front of me each Sunday, sketching as he listened, and I usually paid little mind to it beyond noticing how easily shape took form on the paper in front of him. This time, I glanced down at his sketch and was captivated by the portrait of a handsome boy whose eyes were covered by cicadas. He appeared on the page like magic, first in a series of fine outlines, then increasing in detail as the curves of his face were shaded in, and I remained transfixed by the kinship I felt with this boy who couldn’t see.

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I didn’t know it at the time but I was staring at a metaphor for the shadows I was experiencing in my personal life. I couldn’t put words to what I was going through and Dylan’s drawing made sense of it for a moment, making me feel less alone as I vacantly sat through service. I introduced myself to Dylan later that afternoon and shared my admiration for his sketch, feeling immediately embarrassed after having confessed to peering into a journal I was never invited to look into. 

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Ten months later, I found myself interviewing Dylan at a coffee shop in Park Slope, paging through stacks of his sketchbooks, laughing awkwardly as our conversation danced through the formalities of acquaintances, and musing over the origin stories of his many illustrations.

“I don’t feel like I communicate very well. I say more in art work than I can normally and I’ve always had a passion for it. My senior year of high school, I used to do theater stuff and had a director who said apply to art school to continue doing it. It just so happened to go in another direction.”

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Dylan himself is not easily forgettable with his fire red curls and gunmetal piercings. You get the sense that he doesn’t take his image very seriously but his naturally striking features combined with his quiet disposition makes his presence feel like it’s meant to be observed like a piece of art itself – To be engaged with from a distance, up for interpretation, and perhaps as a consequence, mistakenly interpreted as a reflection of other’s people’s perceptions rather than an accurate portrayal of who he is.

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Dylan’s scope of work explores the grandeur of nature and composites it against the understated beauty of the human body. In observance, his art reminds the viewer of a humbler time when we were more conscious of our mortality and it suggests we would benefit from reconsidering that time again – To reflect on our existence with the symbiotic miracles of carbon, oxygen, bone, and muscle that make it possible in mind.

“The driving themes in my work aren’t my own because I haven’t had a lot of life experience. I lean into other people’s ideas and use allegories inspired by science or whatever literature realm I’m exploring at the time.”

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“I did a big show in November exploring how people relate to nature. The overarching theme was the history of environmentalism and how our relationship with nature isn’t black and white. Whether you want to improve it or you’re apathetic to how your existence impacts nature, there’s a lot of gray area that isn’t considered when people talk about the environment. The things we do tend to have effects we don’t plan for. The show was called Balance because our relationship with nature isn’t black and white and neither is much else.”

Dylan quotes JC Leyendecker, Sterling Hundley, James Jean, and Odilon Redon as inspirations and like many of these artists before him, his own beginning as a professional has been possible through a series of lucky breaks, chance meetings, and tireless effort.

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“At first, it was very slow. I would rarely get illustration jobs. I was living in Charlotte after I graduated and was invited to do a piece for a gallerist. At this gallerist’s opening, I met another gallery owner who invited me to do a piece for them. I had to get my foot in the door and meet people naturally. I still do.”

As long as I’ve known him, Dylan has been humble about his work in a way that understates the appeal of it and allows it to speak for itself. Even each time I’ve complimented it, he seems embarrassed by the attention yet at the same time, he doesn’t minimize how much of his life has been rearranged to accommodate his career as an artist.

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From moving to New York, to working multiple jobs, and being commissioned for art on top of his regular hours, if there’s anything I’ve learned from befriending Dylan, it’s that making art is a sacrifice and whether your work is a kind master or not is beyond your control. Our economy is built to suggest that the value of your work is determined by those who will observe it and the pressure of this reality is felt by creatives – whether or not they believe it’s true.

“I don’t feel like I’m happy enough yet with what I’ve done so far I don’t anticipate I’ll ever feel happy with what I’ve done.”

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“If I sit through something I think is awful, it’ll get better the longer I work at it. I experience an ugly stage in every piece I paint and I used to get very frustrated about it. But it’s necessary. You have to go through the ugly, push to be better and get past the road block. As you practice that, you’ll notice your own eye for composition, contrast, and color improve as you do.”

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As Dylan left me with this advice, I thought about how appropriately it applied to matters beyond art. What helped me get through last year was fixing my eyes on what I knew mattered to me. What mattered to me was following Dylan’s example in pursuing a career I’d be proud of, lifelong friendships with people I respect and admire, and a commitment to my values whether others celebrated them or not. I’ve long considered the sacrifices each of these things would require.

The boy with cicadas is frozen in time.

I’m grateful to be seeing more than ever.

I Stand with Planned Parenthood

I began having sex at 15 years old.

The memory of my first time is as awkward and short-lived as you might imagine between two kids that didn’t know who they were doing.

My mom had given me “the talk” in 5th grade, once the differences between my male peers and I began growing. We sat on our living room floor looking at age-appropriate books she had checked out from the library that illustrated men and women’s anatomy and explained the context of sex between two consenting adults. But we didn’t discuss it again in my adolescence. Instead, my confidantes about this new, weird experience shared between two humans were found in my best girlfriends, who were coming of age in their own series of hook-ups and experimentation.

At 16, I began dating someone seriously (as seriously as one can in high school, which is to say not very) and sex became a regular part of our relationship. My thoughts looking back on this as a 24 year old are that I was too young to experience this level of intimacy. I didn’t know it at the time but I wasn’t mature enough yet to make decisions that were in the best interest of my health or my future.

Luckily, the compassionate individuals at Planned Parenthood were there to help educate and empower me without judgement.

I knew I wanted to go on birth control but my relationship with my parents wasn’t as open then as it is now. I couldn’t talk to them about my reproductive health without the fear of feeling embarrassed or patronized, so like a true digital native, I began researching a solution by Googling “birth control methods”. In doing so, I learned that Planned Parenthood would be my best resource and within the hour, I had an appointment confirmed. A few weeks later, one of my best friends at the time drove me to a clinic 45 minutes away in the outskirts of Orlando, the only metropolitan area near my hometown. The facility I went to was similar to any other doctor’s office I had ever visited – clean, welcoming, and serious about their patient’s right to privacy.

I was seen within 30 minutes and discussed my options at length with the practitioner available. I settled on the Pill and walked out with a prescription that would cost me no more than $30/month – a cost I could easily pay with funds from my after-school job serving smoothies.

Because of my access to Planned Parenthood’s services, I’m sitting here years later in a city 1,000 miles away from home, pursuing a career and life without the pressure of caring for a family I’m in no way ready for yet.

The “baby-parts-for-sale” video that has incensed so many Conservatives against Planned Parenthood has been debunked in a series of outlets, including here, here, and here. At the same time, it would be disingenuous to evade discussing that Planned Parenthood provides women with access to safe abortion procedures – a total of 327,653 in 2014 alone. Whether or not I agree with a women’s choice to have an abortion is not up for discussion here.

Whether or not you agree to a women’s choice to have an abortion is not up for discussion here.

What is up for discussion is that defunding Planned Parenthood leaves 5 million women, men, and adolescents without affordable healthcare services like breast exams, pap smears, and family planning. It leaves people in need of testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases without an accessible and supportive place to do so. And it leaves women who have decided they are going to get an abortion without an option to do so safely and affordably. Do we really have to invoke the symbolism of hangers to remember that women are going to take control of their reproductive liberties, whether Congress allows it or not?

In considering my religious beliefs and the sensitive nature of this subject, George Takei comes to mind. Following the Kim Davis debacle surrounding gay rights, Takei posted a Facebook status calling out the media for turning the debate into a circus and pointing out that American citizens are bound to following civil laws, not religious ones – Therefore, Kim Davis was breaking the law by refusing to provide marriage licenses to gay couples. Someone commented and in a poor effort to shut down his argument, urged Takai to learn the first amendment. Takei responded, outlining the first amendment at length and calling attention to the fact that it gives one the right to worship freely while also restricting Congress from imposing religious doctrine on American citizens. You know, a nod to that whole clause called “separation of church and state”.

George Takei’s point applies in the debate surrounding Planned Parenthood, too.

The topic of Planned Parenthood’s role in providing women with safe abortions has become such a mast-head for bipartisan debate and is used by presidential candidates as a thinly veiled attempt to gain political footing with Conservatives so often that it’s also been reduced to a circus, while ignoring all that’s at stake. The value in providing subsidized health services for women and families, and how these services impact our population’s quality of life has been regrettably overlooked by Conservatives and the general public alike. If #Alllivesmatter, aren’t the lives of the people served by Planned Parenthood, many of which are people of color and immigrants, worth discussing?

I’m thankful my mother didn’t choose to abort me when she found herself pregnant at 17 years old and was encouraged by extended family to do so. I’d like to believe I would be as courageous as her and keep a pregnancy I wasn’t ready for but I’ve never been faced with this decision myself, thanks in part to my access to reproductive health services like birth control.

I’ll fight for my teenage self’s opportunity to make choices about her own body, whether or not those choices would be different today. I’ll fight for an organization that provides 10,590,433 healthcare services to communities of people each year. Beyond (and maybe even despite) my religious beliefs, I’ll fight for a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy she has decided she is not ready for. As I write this, I can picture the disappointed, most likely horrified, faces of the Christian peers that will read this.

Even with these images in mind, I would never allow an outside party to legislate a women’s right to her own body and choices – The complexities of which they’re not equipped to take authority over.

And neither should you.

Drones and Drinking – Do Not Mix

Over the weekend, I attended the Maker Faire in Queens with a free ticket given to me by one of my more industrial pals.

I didn’t know what to expect.

My interest in emerging technology and innovation is pretty casual. I’ll adopt it once it’s mainstream but to give you an example of my limitations with the subject – I *just* started using Siri and she’s more reminiscent of a manager I used to have that resented my requests for support than my personal assistant, so I avoid speaking with her…… I’ll most likely discuss this with a counselor someday.

ANYWAY – the Maker Faire (does anyone else feel like it should be called the Maker’s Faire? Possessive form? No? OK – I digress) was a number of different things.

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It was an exposition showcasing new advances in technology, innovation, and design that attracted walks from all backgrounds and professions – Even a few Burners. It was an opportunity to wait 45 minutes in line for some excellent pupusas that I would’ve gotten a lot sooner if the booth’s staff had a coordinator. And it was an experiment in how far into Queens the 7 train actually goes.

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There were drone races, 3-D printing machines, micro-chip jewelry pieces for sale and miniature rover vehicles entertaining hoards of children with chases throughout the grounds. I felt like I was experiencing life as it had been imagined by George Lucas, especially given R2-D2’s spontaneous appearance.

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All in all, the Maker Faire is exactly the sort of event I’d like to expose my future hypothetical children to so they don’t end up experts in pop-culture like me. A+ parenting skills were evidenced in every parent that took a field-trip to the ends of Queens in hopes to expand their little ones’ knowledge and curiosity towards the world.

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I enjoyed the event but there were so many kid-oriented activities, I couldn’t help but feel that I would have appreciated it more as a mom. Whether I wanted to check out a merchant’s booth or not was irrelevant, I felt funny about standing over crowd of children – none of which belonged to me, so my friend and I just putz’d around. Someone gave me a free frisbee.

I learned that they’re making a FitBit for your dog’s tail in case you’ve run out of ideas for what to spend your money on. Clearly, technology and I are pretty impartial towards one another but if they invented a robot that could do your laundry and fold it too, I could change my disposition.

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After the fair, I returned to my minimally-responsible Millennial life by heading over to the adult playground known as Williamsburg. A few friends and I reunited at Berry Park and later paid a $20 cover to hang out on Output’s rooftop because that’s a thing I do now.

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My lovely friend Jenna (who’s visiting from Florida) and I ended the evening dancing to a great mix of old school and current hip-hop at Kinfolk with some really interesting characters.

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The clientele there included a pair of really lithe, handsy female models that seemed to be in an open relationship with the equally handsome fellow accompanying them, a guy that kept pretending he was the star of his own hip-hop video on the dance floor and didn’t know how to respect a woman’s boundary for space, as well as a really fun gay couple that endeared everybody with their superior dancing skills.

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We ended the night with a cab ride home through the historically Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods which were also turning up on Saturday in full religious garb and all. It was quite a time.

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I think I’ll stay kid-free a little longer.