Seeing is Believing

In the four years I spent at J.R. Masterman, navigating my descent into nerdiness while fighting the inevitable onslaught of puberty, there’s one moment that I would consider to be “life-changing”. A moment I still remember vividly today, even as those Spring Garden memories fade deeper into the past. Ironically, this life-changing moment is connected to Star Trek, and I didn’t even realize it at the time. And you all know how I feel about Star Trek.

My seventh grade science teacher, Mr. Mealey, was a huge Trekkie. In every class he brought along a black book with him. It was titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek. Somehow he always found a way to relate this show to whatever we were learning in class. At the time the only thing I knew about Star Trek was that it had Professor X and that guy from Reading Rainbow in it.

One day, at the beginning of class, Mr. Mealey asked us to take out a blank sheet of paper.

“Draw a doctor.”

Everyone looked around at each other. Here he goes with one of his weird experiments again, I thought. Confused, but afraid (he was a tall, commanding guy), we all got started.

What does a doctor look like? I cycled through images in my mind. Well first, he has to have a lab coat. I drew a figure (or blob because a suck at drawing) wearing a lab coat. Next, I added a stethoscope around his neck, and a pocket protector with pens. Last was the shiny head mirror. Or in my drawing, just a smaller circle above my doctor’s head. Ten minutes later,

“Pencils down. Look at your drawings.”

Mr. Mealey then followed with a few rhetorical questions.

“Is your doctor male, or female?”

“How tall are they?”

“Are they skinny, fat?”

“Long hair? Short hair? Curly?”

“Glasses? Or no glasses?”

“Is your doctor black, white, asian, hispanic?”

“Is your doctor, the same color as you?”

That last question took me out of whatever early morning daze I was in. I looked down at my doctor and clearly he was as white as the paper I drew him on.

Up until that point, I didn’t know of a doctor that was black. All of the leads in every hospital show or movie in the 90s were white. And I watched a whole lot of TV as a kid.

In that question, my science teacher revealed to me how much media could influence my outlook on life. How the lack of certain images could limit my belief in the reality of them. I didn’t draw a black doctor because I couldn’t see the potential in my own self.

Lack of diversity in media is a means of maintaining social inequality. The late professor George Gerbner coined the term symbolic annihilation to express this concept. And it’s a real thing that perpetuates Hollywood like a plague. But if you go behind the scenes, this annihilation, intentional or unintentional, makes total sense. There are very few writers of color in the writer’s rooms of our favorite shows.

America, we can do better. I’ve seen us do better. For the past 50 years, Star Trek has been going “where no one has gone before” on screen. The first interracial kiss in TV history, black leads, female leads, multi-gendered characters, an entire planet run by women!? Star Trek has been pushing the boundaries on all sides, showing us that roles on-screen do not have to be limited by race or gender.

Film and Television inspire. We see aspects of our own selves in the protagonists of the stories we watch. And we see our potential in a protagonist that thinks, acts, and looks like us.

Happy 50th Star Trek. Look out for my spec script in a few years, Bryan Fuller.

Advertisements

For the Record 2016, Pt. 2

The pen calls me action, but with no direction the ink drifts off into white space like black stars in an “other” Universe. I’m on the couch with Freud, Miller and Reggie Watts. Trying to associate reason with something but making more or less sense about nothing.

So I call upon a compass. The Compass. Oh Muse, point me in the right way. Teach me how to plan it all out, how to guide my own way toward a better, goal-oriented Life.

But then Reality’s like:

“Hah, fuck that.”

2016 has been a year of change on top of change, with a little compound interest of transformation. But to those of you who have been reading from the start, that ain’t nothing new. Change is always gonna happen. It’s needed to progress our Story. How we deal with these changes is what shapes us as protagonists.

In an effort to keep up with the changes reality throws at us, I set themes for the year and make myself publicly accountable for them. Here’s how I’m doing so far.

 

1. Wrap-up Novel/Begin Spec Script

Interstice is complete! Even I can’t believe it. Back in March, I believe, I penned the words, “The End.” Weirdly enough, it was on the day I planned on finishing it: March 19th.

Just like my memoir, this was no exercise in perfection. Just my first attempt at long-form fiction storytelling. I’m publishing this out of my own insecurity. Can’t become great at anything overnight, and being comfortable with yourself (and everyone else) as a work-in-progress is a great way to combat the Impostor Syndrome.

I’ve got quite a bit of typing to do, since I write everything down first. (Somebody get me the Moleskine Smart Writing Set!) Expect Interstice to be online towards the end of the year.

We’re halfway through the year and I’m getting ready to start the second part of this goal: Writing a Spec Script. So I’m right on target it seems.

There’s plenty of ways to break into “the industry,” but as a TV writer, the spec script is your calling card. Although I’ll be spending a year of my journey in Philadelphia, this is the perfect time to prepare for the next adventure. It’s that part where the hero is being trained by the master. (Except my mentor is a hologram of Robert McKee and a few screenwriting blogs.)

 

2. Take 10

This theme has helped me keep up with little tasks, and to get started on major ones. I finally got my inbox down to zero, after taking 10 minutes daily over the course of a few weeks to read emails.

Still, there is progress to be made. Sometimes, if a task is small and simple, I’ll just postpone it over and over. Finally at the last minute I decide to hurry up and get it done. The whole point of this theme is to help me get easy, minute tasks out of the way.

 

3. No Doubt, Baby Steps

No Doubt is the overarching theme of 2016. When it feels like I’m moving like a snail in the Facebook rat race, these four words above remind me that nothing is accomplished overnight. Taking small step after small step has led me to finishing one book a month. This mentality is also helping me break down my long-term dreams into doable daily targets.

My only real problem with this is maintaining consistency. I have theory that this happens because I no longer measure my productivity in the same ways as last year. Time for a change.

So far so good, and of course there’s always room for improvement. In other news, I’ve finally got a job! So maybe in a few weeks I’ll finally get out of this house and have a “Treat Yoself” Day. Catch you on the next post.

 

Impossible List

Another Ending

Man this one is from a while back! I’ve been writing, just been a neglectful poster. I’ll be changing that of course now that I’m all settled in. But for now check out something I wrote, but thought I posted here a month ago lol

 

Written March 16-21

My new job had ended just as quickly as it started. I’m funemployed! Haven’t had this much time off since Summer Vacation 2014. A week has passed. I try to stay at home as I did when I was in Ibaraki. Chill indoors, exercise, focus, write, and catch up on TV shows. I works for a little and then the next thing I know, I’m back out drinking with friends. ‘Tokyo is a happening place!’ as my mom would say.

I started out one year ago in a new spot, a new job, in a city that wasn’t too unfamiliar. I was happy with everything, but work was crazy! A Tuesday-Saturday schedule was the compromise for more pay than my last job. Something I don’t think I ever got used to.

I woke up early, got home late just about everyday. Half-making dinner and then falling asleep at my desk. Saturdays were just chaos. But hey, I had Monday off…right?

My students in Tokyo were just as awesome and crazy as my students out in Ibaraki. We worked (or at least said we did) in rehearsals for months and months. Presentation Day came and they all made me proud. I guess I can finally add a few director’s credits to my filmography!

Working with my new coworkers was never dull or tedious. Everyone was just as crazy and offbeat as I was. Maybe it was the actual job itself that brought all these interesting characters into one place. Just one big dramatic family. I’m so happy that I allowed myself to open up to this new group of friends. Although we’re all going our separate ways, no doubt we’ll stay in touch.

There never was a dull moment with my homies too. Curry Mondays followed by Greenland nomihoudai in Roppo. We had some crazy nights in Kanda too. George filling us up with wine ’til our cups runneth over. Smash Bros., Mario Kart…Our many discussions on the workings of the female brain (still a mystery). Thank Glob for group chats because I’m really gonna miss it all.

And then there’s Paula, oh Paula. Where did you come from? How did this all happen? We’ve had that conversation many times over and we still don’t get how well we surprised ourselves. Were we looking for love? I’m not quite sure. But I know one thing: we were both living. And our mutual love for life and adventure led us to each other. You know how I feel about time.

This was our right time.

Our only time.

We have met in a moment in life where we both take risks in trust and openness. And each step of the way, we’re taking those risks together.

This isn’t another ending. This is a whole new beginning.

This whole going to America thing still hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe because I have done this before? Hard to tell. Anyway, I have a lot of time off to reflect and write. So be sure to check out more posts in the future.

Philly I’m Back!!!!

Clothes Make the Man?

“Yoooo, look at that, that whatever it is! I need that in my wardrobe!”

“Yeah it looks pretty cool. Let’s check it out.”

It was a hot September day in Osaka. My first time out in super chill Kansai. My friend Jess and I were walking through the busy streets of Nanba, surrounded by tourists and shoppers on a shotengai that seemed to extend to the ends of the Earth.

It was there that I saw it.

Long and flowing, off the most regal of mannequins was a glorious fabric. It commanded so much power. Without thinking I said aloud,

“I need that.”

So we walked into Bershka and tried to find whatever was on the mannequin in the shop’s windows. What was it? A scarf? A poncho? A cloak? Cape? We walked deeper into the store until we finally discovered it. And right above the garment, on the wall in all caps read:

WOMEN’S

No it can’t be! How could this thing, this piece of fabric, have a gender? That mannequin didn’t have gender. What is this?

Feeling a bit awkward in that moment, my friend still somehow convinced me to try it on. But no no, not in front of all these women, it was too embarrassing for me. So we took it off the rack and headed to the Men’s floor. I found a mirror and threw it on real quick.

Now if you guys don’t know already, I’m not the type of person to spend money on anything. I’m not cheap, I just know exactly what I want when it comes to buying stuff. (Probably why I haven’t bought a new pair of sneaks in years.) I get stuff that I know I’ll still be wearing years from now. So let me tell you: when I tried this scarf/cape thing on, I could already tell that  it would be something I’d still be wearing 10 years from now.

Yet I chickened out. Talked myself into thinking it was too expensive. All because of some stupid label.

Fast forward to Fall. I’m out in Shibuya with another friend, Nicole. I get her to come with me to Bershka. I didn’t tell her I felt more comfortable going there with her. If anyone gave me a weird look, I could just say I was shopping with her!

I didn’t know if the cloak would’ve been out of stock by now. We looked and looked. 1st floor, nope. 2nd floor, nope. Finally after making it to the third floor, there it was. Hiding in a tiny rack with a bunch of other things.

But here I was, trying to talk myself out of buying it again! Fortunately my home girl was there to get me to “man-up.” I copped it and bounced through the streets with a smile on my face and a chu-hi in hand.

This whole ordeal had me thinking hard about how clothes came to be engendered. I watch Game of Thrones and see more men wearing skirts and tights than women. (Yes, I know it’s fiction, but it’s roots are in the very real Medieval Times.) Yet a kid like Jaden Smith gets called a weirdo for making risky fashion choices. I don’t see the point of being critical of something that you aren’t even wearing.

I believe that what we wear allows us to express ourselves. Our clothing adds a layer of confidence to our personality, sort of like a new haircut. So although dresses aren’t me, I totally feel what Jaden is saying. When I put my cape on, rocking all black with a purple long-sleeve, I do feel sort of like a regal-superhero-Clint Eastwood character. It’s fun playing dress-up.

Fast forward to Winter, I’m back shopping in Shibuya with my girl, Paula. I hit up Bershka to see if anything new has arrived since X-Mas sales have ended. And guess what was on the Men’s floor?

A cloak, differing only in color to my own.

Maybe the clothes don’t really make the man. Maybe Man takes clothes and does as he pleases.

Somedays I just feel like a superhero #cloaklife

A post shared by E C. Malcolm Burton (@ec_quasar) on

For the Record-2015 into 2016

Hello my fellow Wandering Samurai. It’s that time of year again…

Resolutions, pinky promises, and goal setting. A New Year has come as we now enter into the second half of the 2010s. As I do every year—taking inspiration from one of my favorite bloggers, James Clear—I’ve decided to publicly evaluate my progress of the year. The 3 themes of 2015 were: Writing For Me, Focus, and Positivity. Here’s how I did:

 

1. Writing For Me

So I started my second major writing project in early 2015. I wanted this to be my entire focus of the year. Therefore I published less on Tales of a Ronin as well as GaijinPot.

But then I moved to Tokyo, started a new job, and realized how little of a social life I had back out in the countryside. So  in 2015, I just lived it up. Traveled, did new things, and really didn’t write a lot (compared to 2014).

Although I’m nowhere near finished as planned, progress is progress. I have to pat myself on the back for at least starting the novel.

At the ned of the year I clocked in somewhere between 18 to 20,000 words. And that’s a whole lot more than zero.

2. Focus

I know what I’m going to say is probably the most common knowledge, ever. But doing just one thing at a time is so much faster than multitasking! I tell myself this all the time. Yet towards the end of the year I really began to understand why it’s true. Multitasking is mentally draining. There is a physical cost to jumping between different tasks. And you come out of it feeling tired, without even getting much done.

Knowing this, I’ve gotten better at doing and sustaining one thing at a time (my definition of focus). Now I even lose myself in writing on the way to work, sometimes barely missing my stop. That never happened in the beginning of the year. Yet I still have a bad habit of surfing the web while I’m in a writing session. 2016 might be the year I kick this habit.

No, it will be.

3. Smile [Positivity]

I really can’t remember a very low moment this entire year. Of course there were some emotional ups and downs, but nothing that caused me to feel ongoing negativity. And that’s the way Life should be.

Positive, Fun, Happy!

 

For the second half of this post I will introduce the 3 Themes of 2016:

1. Wrap-up Novel/Begin Spec Script

The novel-writing process was enough to make me realize that I really just want to write for television and film. I could sit at my desk and write novels for years on end. But I want my characters to eventually make it to the screen. And getting there can prove to be quite difficult for an author.

I know this sounds like a crazy dream, but as with everything: baby steps. This dream has been on my mind for a few years now. The fact that I’m finally sharing it publicly proves to me that I’m ready to go forth.

I will turn the novel into the long-short story after tying up some loose ends. And maybe I’ll do the same thing I did with The Enlightenment: publish chapters on Tales of a Ronin.

2. Take 10

So I got a little problem of leaving little things (emails, calls, cleaning, etc.) unattended to, and taking forever to start big things. So I’m starting a new habit: Take 10.

  • If a task is so small it takes 10 minutes or less, just do it.
  • If a task takes much longer than 10 minutes, then simply spend 10 minutes focusing on doing only that task. If when time is up and I made it out of the starting blocks, just keep going.

With this system, I’m always getting stuff done no matter what. And I’m not wasting time trying to figure out what to do next.

3. No Doubt, Baby Steps

This year I get the feeling that I’ll be taking some major steps in the direction I want to go in Life. I’ll admit, I’m scared as hell and some days I feel like I’m not ready. But this little mantra will remind me of my self-worth. Nothing great gets accomplished in a night. As long as I’m taking confident baby steps, I’ll get to where I want to be.

Thanks everyone for all the love. It’s still crazy to see that I’ve been keeping this blog running for two years.

I appreciate you all, honestly. Stay Tuned for the Next Tale.

Enigmatic: Why They Can’t Read Us

“Sometimes I feel like I just can’t read you.”

Weirdly enough, as I grow and become more in touch with who I am than I ever was before, I still here this phrase. And not just from new people I meet. I heard this from my mom only a month ago.

Wouldn’t it make more sense that everyone else would also understand me since I really understand me now? Well it doesn’t seem to work that way. And the weird thing is, from my perspective it seems like I get along fairly well with most of the people I associate with! Does this ever happen to you? Maybe people like us unconsciously put up some facade that we’ve become accustomed to donning around everyone. Our personality: oh no, it can’t be…fake?! I want to delve into this idea of the enigma. Maybe after much rumination in the meadow of thoughts we can come to a conclusion about why people know us, but don’t think they really know us.

Let’s Begin.

 

Personality Type

You’re chill. You’re very outgoing. You’re shy. Wow you are very animated. Where’s you’re emotion? Quiet. Random much? Homebody. Party animal.

I feel like all of these “labels” could apply to me. I guess that’s the problem with us ambiverts. Although personality types are all theoretical, I really believe this type is very accurate in describing the enigmatic characters parading (or sneaking) around the world’s stage. We love being around people and then we have days where we wished we lived on the top of Mt. Fuji; in the wintertime. We can socialize, be loud and ego crazy. And then an hour later transform into the soft-spoken listener posted up on the wall with a close friend, or even a random stranger.

Do you ever feel like your attitude seems to change based on the social circle you’re in? And I’m not talking about code-switching. My catalog of eloquent vocabulary doesn’t magically increase when I’m talking with my boss. I’m saying that the way I act really changes a few degrees depending on who I am around. I sort of try to meet people where they’re at.

If I’m around chill people, I tend to be around their level of communication, sometimes just above in terms of energy.

If I’m around high energy or loud people I tend to hover just below their vibration.

And when it’s a mixed bag I tend to be all over the place.

It’s like I have a personality lever built right into me. Are you the same? That might be one reason why you’re the enigma of your friends and family members.

 

Onion Theory

It’ really quite simple: we’re all onions. We were all born and raised in different gardens. We all experienced different climates in life and learned to adapt to them. No one is the same as the other. We all have layers created from our experiences. This has made us exactly who we are today.

There’s really always more to the story than people show on the outside. I think that’s what’s so great about every human being: that we all have these layers, these stories we keep telling ourselves, about ourselves. So when I meet people, and as I get to know them over time, I don’t expect that I’ll just get them (as in understand them) right away. I keep an open mind and sort of expect people to do the same for me.

But maybe due to the fact that we are evolutionarily built to make snap judgements about our surroundings, others may have a hard time making those quick reactions around us. It’s pretty cool right? We have this mechanism built-in, to help us categorize everything; even people. Yet how useful will this (for lack of better word) “stereotyping” be as our individual life experiences become increasingly diverse. Hmm…we might all be becoming enigmatic.

 

Projection Theory

Maybe you can always go into work with a huge smile on your face; even on the same day your dog died. Maybe you’re so deadpan no one can ever tell if you’re sarcastic or serious. Maybe you got an angry face, or even worse. Dare I say it? RBF.

If what you project is not always perfectly aligned with what you feel, then you just upped the ante on your mysterious persona. Now go join a poker tournament you sly devil! I realized this was a bit of a problem for me when I would tell others how I feel (about them, a current event, etc.). I would get so offended when they would say I was all talk. But now I understand what they meant. The words I was voicing didn’t match up with the emotions I was projecting. A frustrating feeling for both me and whoever I might have been talking to at the time. Facial expressions speak just as loud as actions it seems.

So you just might be an ambiverted onion with projection problems. Congratulations, you’re unique! Nothing wrong with not fitting easily into societal stereotypes. But just keep in mind these things I talked about when communicating with others. And remember to:

Be a bit more frank with others

Express yourself a bit more

And go easy on the sarcasm

Any suggestions on dealing with this “problem”? Add them in the comments.

Things Learned 2015

Happy Christmas + Merry Holidays everyone.

2015 started out as wild ride. On New Year’s Day, each one of my friends and I made pacts to live life to the fullest this year. Take risks, do crazy shit, and have no regrets. I have to admit that we all did that, and I’m in a place that I never expected to be in. Totally happy and just living it. Learning more about myself each day.

As always I try to keep a general record of my progress with different goals throughout the year. My 3 main areas  of attention were: Writing for Me, Focus, and Positivity. I’ll address these in a later post in January. For now, let’s talk about the things I learned in 2015.

 

1. Relationships are…Vulnerability

This year was probably the beginning of me understanding what it really means to be in a relationship. I’ve dated in the past, had a girlfriend here and there. But things never seemed to  work and I couldn’t figure out why.

Then I met someone who made me realize how bad I was at expressing my feelings for others. In fact we both weren’t quite good at it. Which makes me wonder how this all worked out, lol.

Anyway, after losing all hope of it ever working between us, I tried something new. I just allowed myself to become more vulnerable around her. What would happen if I showed her I had nothing to hide? How would that change the dynamic between us?

Well, she saw me for who I am, and it allowed her to finally open up to me.

A lot of love advice I find online seems to be rooted in competitive/territorial ideals. Love isn’t a game. It’s an experience. There’s no point in wasting your life trying to gain an advantage over someone. Keep it real, be honest, be You. And you’ll run into the one that accepts you for who you are.

 

2. Books Are Awesome

I thought I could never find time to read books for pleasure outside of long vacations from work. That’s a total myth. When me and a group of my friends started reading together on weekends, I immediately recalled why I loved reading so much as a young lad. It’s like entering a whole new world!

I realized there’s so much time in the day to read, too. (And also realized I spend a whole lot of time doing absolutely nothing on the Interwebs.) Just start out with 20 minutes a day and you’ll be cruising through a novel in no time.

Currently Reading: 2312

Up Next: The Subtle Knife???

 

3. Finding the Work/Play/Passion Balance is Hard

2015 was so awesome because I did so many awesome things (excuse the conduplicatio). I moved to Tokyo, started a new job, made new friends, went to Kansai, tried out new foods and things…There was really no room for regret.

At the same time though, I didn’t make the ideal progress I would have liked to make on my novel. I know there’s a balance out there. If J.K. Rowling did it as a broke single mom, surely I could make things happen for me. And I probably have half the responsibilities she had at the time.

Maybe things would be better if my work was my passion. But there’s no point in wasting time thinking about that. If anyone else is in the same boat and has some ideas/advice, message a brother, please and arigatou.

Well these are the Things Learned. Each year gets progressively more interesting. Each year brings more Self-Understanding. I’m excited for the things I’ll encounter in the 2016 Journey.

Until then, see you Next Year!