The work of Mike Varley

The Mike Varley Plain Dealer: 28 Goals and Accomplishments Review

March 24th, 2013 by admin

So this is the last year of my twenties.  Does that mean anything?  Should that mean anything?  It doesn’t have to, but I want to attribute meaning to it.  As much as I lament the passing of time – of there never being enough of it up hit your ideal objective – the mile markers it gives us certainly shape our stories well.

I feel more matured.  For the first time, I find myself wistfully remembering a prior age – an age where I was fully developed physically and mentally but by no means wizened.  The time of total potential energy and absolute ignorance.  There’ll always be a part of you that mourns the spending of innocence, but as long as it’s well spent who can complain honestly?

And far beyond complain, appreciate.  Things get more textured as you age, and I’m old enough now to see how much nuance there is yet to come.  Less is new, but more is precious.

This is the last year of a wonderfully expended decade.  And next year everything will change and nothing that’s left will stay the same.  Nothing will change right along with everything else, become one with everything again and leave me simply one further revolution along.

So is it even worth it to steer your story if the present contains all of it already?  I don’t know.  But it’s a fun story to tell when I don’t let perspective get away from me.  The act of creation itself is sacred – everything done in the name of broadcasting it is for function and not fulfillment.  It’s so dangerous, because the work of expanding your audience is fraught with if’s and when’s, far in the future.  I’ve yet to find one of those victory’s that doesn’t ring hollow when struck, but their purpose as stepping stones for new creative experiences cannot be denied.

I’ll keep making things because I love making things.  But I can’t make myself anything more than I already am.  Celebrity and success are no less possessions than suits and turtlenecks.  There’s no shame in having them, but nothing is lost in their absence.

Philosophy aside, let’s see how we did this year:

Review: Goals of 28

1.  “Brunch: The Movie – This movie, compared to Bruce and Dom, should prove to be more accessible to a general audience.  The goal is to make the turn around time much quicker and use it as a stepping stone for further projects.  Hopefully by 29, we’ll have it showing in festivals.  There’s a long way to go, but we’ve plotted a good course.”

A year has gone by since we first started filming.  Considering its been an entirely no budget enterprise to this point, things have progressed well.  The turn around this time will undoubtedly be quicker than Bruce and Dom, and I’m hoping for an opening in late spring/early summer.  Insofar as I kept the torch aloft all year, this goal was a success.


2.  “Election 2012 – It just feels right to make a companion collection of spoken word pieces to go with The Events of Election ’08.  Should Obama end up winning reelection, the pair will make a unique documentation of what will go down as a historic presidency.  There won’t be as many pieces as last time, but I intend to start once a week in June and have twenty or so done by election day.”

It happened.  Here’s recorded proof.  Here’s me performing.  Soon enough, there will be a CD.  A goal doesn’t get much more complete than this.


3.  “Bruce and Dom Internet Launch – I’ve put together a weekly newsletter for release of Bruce and Dom in its vignette form.  To hop on the newsletter train, click the link here.”

Another check mark.  Not only that, the Bruce and Dom DVD’s arrived about a month ago.  It’s over.  A five-year project has finally found its rest.


4.  “August Documentary – I’m in early talks to do a documentary piece in August on a local Brooklyn comedy event.  Time will tell the end result of this goal.”

This never materialized, but given the workload it was for the best.


5.  “Breathe – Making this list and thinking forward, it occurs to me that all my available free time is loosely booked through the age of thirty.  This is a scary proposition, less because of the symbolic nature of the age and more because I fear the lack of nothingness in my life.  It’s all work I have a passion for, but I worry about the lack of balance.  I structure in recreation time as well, but I worry the structure itself is a problem.  I guess this is less a goal and more a rant, but I’m hopeful reminding myself in this way will provide some defense from overextension.”

Nope, still a problem.  I’m not sure whether to embrace it as a personality trait or recognize it as a sign of an ill-led life.  I do have faith, however, that life slaps you sober every now and again, and if this is the wrong path, the opportunity to change will naturally reveal itself.  My present-moment preamble to all this reflection suggests I’m on the right path, at least for this month.


Accomplishments of 28

Birthday Project – This past year, my closest friends and I undertook the massive project of making present for each of our respective birthdays.  It involved Russian dolls, mason jars, piano rolls, unicorn heads, Dungeons and Dragons and countless spoons, among other things.  To give you an idea, here’s just one gift, a short film presented to Jess Vogel.

The AD Reading Series – The impetus for creating this was to have a platform for performing some of my Election 2012 pieces.  It has turned into a great way to meet new writers, showcase the talent of friends and push myself to write more.  Here are link to the first two readings (Nov. 2012, Jan 2013) and to my performances specifically – Election 2012 and Vive the Life, a reflection on life in the city I consider my best writing of this year or the past few.

Brunch Movie – The level of coordination that has gone into this project so far is several atmospheres larger than anything I’ve ever done.  I’ve learned so much and experienced so many emotions – joy, despair, anger, relief and everything in between.  I’ve been blessed with the effort and support of so many people in this process, and I hope all that energy given will be returned and more in the final product.

Election 2012 – In a way, this project has a similar path to Bruce and Dom.  Though it didn’t require as much standard bearing, I always knew after “The Events of Election ’08” that it would be four more years until the work was finished.  This go around wasn’t as comprehensive as ’08, with nineteen pieces versus ‘08’s thirty-four, but the experience of the first go around had me more focused in my intentions.  It was only intuition at first, but now I’m certain this Presidency will be looked back on for generations, and I’m proud to have captured it in a way no one else has.

Bruce and Dom newsletter – twenty-two episodes, five months of weekly newsletters with content descriptions, movie trivia and weekly trips to the archives to bring old work to light.  I learned how to manage a newsletter and saw through the last of my objectives for Bruce and Dom.  The whole movie is now online in one piece.  You can watch it here.

Honorable mentions:

Art is a Gift

Destiny’s Child, official submission to the 48-Hour film festival


World Series of Rafters 2012

This year’s Halloween Mask.


Goals for 29

Brunch Movie – So much completed, so much to be done.  Trailer, website, fundraising, DVD creation, festival submission, premiere.  This should really be goals one through five, but I don’t operate that way.

Continue the AD Reading Series – I’d like to make this happen every 2-3 months for as long as I’m in the city, getting good documentation, increasing my network of writing connections and pushing my own writing practice.  The goal is to pare it down to the essentials so I don’t go crazy juggling too many projects.

Make a documentary about the AD birthday project – We have some pretty good documentation compiled from our year of present making.  My goal is to make a summation of the whole process for general consumption.

Get Election 2012 CD’s made, send out copies – Having the CD’s made should be a fairly routing process, but I’d also like to mail both election albums out to select people along with letters describing the content.  This includes the Obama’s, Andrew Sullivan, Calvin Trillin and other political figures and wonks.

Go through the audio archives – I have tons of recordings from the past few years I’d like to go through and categorize for my own amusement and possibly larger, slice of life interest.

Thanks for reading as always, and wish me luck.


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