The work of Mike Varley

The Mike Varley Plain Dealer: 27 Goals and Accomplishments review

May 15th, 2012 by admin

So my goals and accomplishments review is coming a little later this year than normal.  In fact, my life updates in general for the Mike Varley Plain Dealer have come to a halt for over a year now.  I kept waiting for certain events to finish before I’d write one and another one would come along to delay the writing again.  It’s impossible to not come off pithy in this manner, but here are some bullet points of my personal life for the past year and change:

–Erin and I are no longer together as of September.

–After nearly a year of throat problems, I had my tonsils out in September.

–Mom is still undergoing treatment for her cancer.

–I’m still working at Carillon and I’ve taken on a second position there to save up money.

–I’ve had three new roommates since the last update in addition to Mark – Erin for a summer, her cousin Brian for a month, and presently Galen Pittman for about six months.

–I bought a new Macbook Pro, ruined it with water, then paid more to have it repaired.

–I visited Memphis for the first time and recently visited my sister in Richmond.

–Perhaps my three biggest media influences over this lost time was David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Busdriver’s Beaus$Eros and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Of course, most of my life’s energy goes to creative projects, so my goals and accomplishments tell the other half of the story.  Let’s start with the Goals of 27.

Goals of 27

1. Finish Cord Project – “I’ve begun in earnest on a third canvas presently titled “Our Electric Tethers.”  The piece will be mounted on a 6′x4′ board and involves hundreds of electrical cords I scavenged from recycling centers and street corners.  You can watch a video of the cord painting here.”

Boom.  Finished it, exhibited it, and now it hangs in my apartment.

2. Bruce and Dom – “This year, I plan on finishing Bruce and Dom, building a website for it, having DVD’s made, submitting to festivals, becoming an indie darling, sweeping the Oscar’s, handling my new found celebrity poorly, leaving my sitcom in the middle of production, going on a whirlwind interview tour, and spreading memes like Johnny Appleseed until eventually succumbing to an overdose of sobriety.”

Voila. Website done, still submitting, DVD’s still not made but they’ll be done eventually.  This chapter of my life is not over, but everything about it is laid out and finished.

3.  Writing Project – “My last major writing undertaking was at the very beginning of 2009, when I finished work on The Events of Election ‘08.  In those two years, I’ve done a handful of short stories, travelogues, and other bits of writing, but no all consuming project.  With the cord piece and Bruce and Dom primed to come off the burners, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in a paper project again.  The topic will likely be the nursing home, but it remains to be seen what form it will take.”

I’d consider this goal achieved, but not to the scope I envisioned.  The focus has definitely moved from canvas work over the year, and in its place film has taken center stage.  “Osama Bin Laden, 2011,” The Hydrofracking series and the Brunch Movie all involved lots of writing on my part, probably 50-60 pages of content total.  I still see a large scale project on the horizon, but these works did the trick.

4.  Couch Project – “In the spring of last year, my parents renovated the family living room for the first time since 1970.  I took a 6′x4′ piece of brown shag carpeting and skinned the paisley couches for the fabric, recording it all on camera.  I think you know where this is going.  The only question is will there be time if I choose to take on a writing project.”

Never happened.  I thought summer 2011 would be when it worked out but it didn’t.  I still have the materials, but it’s unlikely this will materialize anytime soon.

5.   Songwriting – “I have a number of songs in various degrees of completion rattling around in my head and I’d like to hear what they sound like finished.  I just finished a demo for song number two yesterday; ten seems a reachable goal for the coming year.”

I don’t think I got to ten personally, but between Queen/Mob and various scoring opportunities for film, I was able to flex my songwriting muscles in an enjoyable way.

Accomplishments of 27
1.  Bruce and Dom – It feels like it needs to be number one more out of respect to my endurance than anything else.  It’s complete, and I’m pleased at its wholeness, but the enthusiasm for it has been converted in the process.  All projects end like that to one degree or another.  I still take pleasure in watching it, but the thought of it doesn’t get me dancing.
2.  Brunch: The Movie – Hard to say if this should count as a 27 accomplishment, but given that the bulk of the filming was done on my birthday weekend, I’m going to count it as a buzzer beater.  Brunch: The Movie is a collaborative film project involving 26 of my friends coming together to write, start in and produce a feature-length film surrounding the theme of brunch.  I had a little bit to do with every part of the process, and orchestrated the project as essentially a birthday party for myself.  I’m pleased with how it’s coming along.
3.  Hydrofracking New York – This project came out of the blue when Dan Dezarn asked me to film a hydrofracking rally for him in October.  I wasn’t able to make the event, but I said I’d make a Fracking 101 video for him, and the project ballooned into somethign much larger.  In an intense ten days I went from knowing very little aout hydrofracking to making a twenty-plus minute, six part series on the subject to educate the interested on YouTube.  I’m most happy with the impartial tone I feel I struck with the piece, often missing in activist work.
4.  On Osama Bin Laden, 2011 – When Osama Bin Laden was killed one year ago, my friends and I were eat ice cream, oblivious to the news.  It wasn’t until someone texted one of us that we were taken out of our little world to watch the repeating Al-Qaeda training videos on the news.  My friend Jess and I felt compelled to go to Ground Zero to see the scene.  The emotions were complicated.  I spent an intense 5 days writing, scoring and editing.  The result captures my sentiments perfectly.
5.  Our Electric Tethers – The second half of the year was so filled with work that it’s almost easy to forget I pulled off a crazy 200 lb.+ electric cord project.  It took nearly two years from conception to completion, and the result is a work of strong personality and visual interest.  I got it done in time for the Crest Hardware Show, which was my primary goal for the work.  You can see the video for the show here.  The piece now resides in my apartment, as part of what now seems in retrospect to be my mid-twenties triptych.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 defence from overextension.
Another year, another list.  We’ll see how I do this time around.

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