Wednesday, November 19, 2008

356. Chez Mike Dillin: Une Nouvelle Maison (A Big Hug, Long Overdue)

Last night, I decided before I left to Riverside to spend a couple of "peaceful" days with my parents, that I would finally go and visit Mike Dillin, my "acquired third cousin." But, such a title is a bit too harsh and unrepresentative of our relationship. To me, Mike is more like a protective, witty (super-intelligent), rebellious older brother that I never had, but could only dream of having. But now I have him, and I sincerly felt that I took his presence for granted--especially ever since he left to New Orleans for a lengthy period of time (since Fall of 2007, I clearly remember).

Ever since Mike left, I went through Los Angeles and Santa Monica feeling empty, withdrawal. Not only I missed Mike, but I missed his experience of reality: his abode near by the Santa Monica pier, his stories working on TV and movie sets, his deep knowledge of Los Angeles, which to me I probably can play the Los Angeles Video Game at Level 2. And Mike plays Level 10, or Level 20. I don't know how to calibrate his knowledge of the area. To me, this city is a daunting, unmanageable, graspable zoo... still to this day. I also missed Mike's unique character: insane problem-solving intelligence not channeled through the university--but a little bit anti-university through the lens of his grandmother--who attempted to go to UCLA for graduate school but was discriminated back in the day because she was a female. Such stupidity of thought. I can barely imagine such a day. My being a female in the university was never really an issue--until I saw all these strange funding and scholarship opportunities that were catered toward "women in science." What's the big deal about "women in science"? I suppose I am to take a science / history of science course to understand the gorey details of misrepresentation of brains in science.

I also missed Mike as a mentor in the media business. Mike guided me towards signing up with Central Casting ( in order to be an extra on the Giant Movie Sets. I must say that 95% of businesses revolving around "make-it-in-the-movies-and-get-famous" are scams, and 5% are true in terms of having a working job as an extra. But once you know what are the "true gigs" from the scam, you are connected to 95% of all the movie production in Los Angeles. "You're in," so to speak.

I had two Extras experiences for "Made of Honor", a cheezy CHEEZY film with Patrick Dempsey (I did an airport scene and a Halloween scence, in which I was a punk rock hippi in the middle of spring 2007 at Occidental College, worked well, met an intelligent, thoughtful guy by the name of Matt Something-err-other, good guitarist and singer, has the whole Nick Drake feel to him). Never even hit the movie theaters. Just sold as a silly love flick in the front stand of Vons Grocery Stories. Patrick Dempsey is SO SHORT and SO YESTERDAY. I saw Patrick twice--live. He seems really cool as a human being, and in the end, that is all that matters. You are a human being at the core and whatever society makes you to be is an illusion just so society can make money off of you. Society's biological puppet, so to speak--what most actors are. Anyhoo. Mike also got me quite a few resume items to enter into the UCSB Environmental Media Program. Which reminds me, I never finished off making his business card, which I should make ASAP.

One time Mike even offered me a Production Assistant job, which... in the near future... I may actually pursue (as an internship experience for the summer, so to speak, during my Ph.D. ness). During Spring of 2007--during my horrible year of "Medieval Dark Period," being rejected by my family and academia (at least UC Riverside Academia) for being a scientist breaking out into pursuing art (I was also a housekeeper and caretaker for Momma, a Persian grandmother with severe arthritis in Mission Viejo, California, where my cousin Jennifer Harber lives). What I was doing--integrating science and art--made sense to me, but there was no place for this type of endeavor in the family or in society--where I could be "institutionally accepted for my individual identity"--but Mike Dillin always cared about me and helped me out during those trying times of extreme dichotomy between exploring individual identity despite the lack of support in society. Mike has his photography business shooting off--skyrocketing in terms of a very cool job with nice salary--he most certainly has a financially-well-to-do audience in Los Angeles, through the movie industry. Mike has a Nikon D100 and D200 (he may have a D80 or D90 now), which inspired me to get my first SLR camera, the Nikon D80 (graduated from the Nikon Coolpix 5700, which I used for a couple of years, but started to feel stifled). I remember Mike vividly telling me, "What is the difference between a talented paid photographer versus unpaid photographer? You don't need a certificate or degree. All you need is a big-chunky SLR camera. The equipment gives you credentials--automatically. You are in a position of media authority by the mere equipment of you use." About a month after stating this, I bought a Nikon D80 package deal (with two lenses) at a Costco out in Ontario or China (despite my desperate financial situation), and soon after that Mike hired me as his assistant for a few photography shoots. We did a string of events that revolved around "little girls one-year-old birthday parties" which was a riot act, taking pix of drooling kids having a blast with toys, living in immense happiness with major ignorance to the full scope of Reality. It was at these events that Mike trained me on using the SB-800 flash and the Gary Fong diffuser. Just last year I finally made a purchase of my own SB-800 flash and imitation diffuser from China (saved 20 bucks in the process!). Mike also hooked me up with an Alcoholics Anonymous Photography gig "Ride to Recovery," which was a lot of fun.

I also remember Mike telling me "You become what you label yourself on your business card. If you want to be a producer or director, place producer or director on your business card. You can fabricate your professional identity just through a business card. You don't necessarily need credentials stampled on your forehead. More so experience, a portfolio, references and contacts." So the message is that you essentially can become what you envision yourself to become. You label yourself and grow into your label. Don't let society label you. So, then, on those terms, I have become a Commonsenseologist and an Ecopistemologist. Which society doesn't really know what it is, so I am still very liberal and free to define myself generalistically in a world of specialists.

After attending my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with Mike, he also fed me chili burgers and french fries at local restaurants off the Third Street Promenade (as well as checking out the Macintosh store). He still goes after ten years of being sober because apparently AA is a massive Social Sphere, and you don't necessarily want to break the bonds of relationships. A cult to some degree, I suppose. Mike said that consuming alcohol makes him angry, and I said that consuming alcohol makes me feel vulnerable: I want to crawl into a fetal position--much like a rolly polly ball and melt in the corner of a party--if I have consumed too much (which is usually over one can of Guinness; my tolerance level is low. One day after attending my first AA meeting (I felt like Mike's and my life are like some kind of Fight Club, continued, you can get addicted to self-help groups quickly because you have an automatically attentive audience: only desperate people truly listen), I drove back to Orange County and coined the new term for AA. It's called Alternative Addictions Program. It's all about consciously identifying any "bad habits," and finding Alternative Addictions to pursue to replace these "bad habits." I told this idea to Jesse Wright, a music engineer and great friend at California Sound Studios (Orange County) and he said that was a BRILLIANT idea, and I should start a non-profit group. He had to attend the formalized AA due to some driving mishap I don't have the full details on.

So, as you can see, through this extensive timeline, Mike Dillin and I have had quite a few adventures together. We both acquired our roles in our shared photography shoots. Mike was very good director and did an all-encompassing job, but as an assistant, I was able to frame some photographs that had a unique artistic flare. I also remember excitedly coming home after these shoots and we both had our little subliminal competitive wars about "who took the cooler shots," as we were frantically comparing our photographs of the day!

We didn't need any training in school or any advanced degrees: we were learning by doing, and we were getting paid for it too. We were living a College of Creative Studies lifestyle that actually paid money. What a concept! We just needed to help and support each other out. We just needed to help and support each other. We had a feedback going and we learned a lot from each other, though I do admit Mike really helped me in equipment training--because he's got all this equipment I can barely afford myself. But through these experiences, I have come to realize the power of teamwork and mentorship, and that two people can do amazing things that one individual could not possibly do. So, my sense of desiring to be "independent" is being challenged by the existence of a superorganismic synergism with a few individuals in the world--one being Mike Dillin. I wouldn't be where I am today as an environmental media Ph.D. student if it weren't for my cousin Mike.

I first met Mike Dillin in the Fall of 2005, accidentally, a day after Thanksgiving, at my aunt-and-uncle Jean's and Chuck's house in Corona, California. During one of the first two times I met him (I think also on Christmas day), he took an amazing picture of me (which reflected my worrisomeness and seriousness at the time, I was one stressed out cookie as a grad student at UC Riverside), to which Jery Lyn printed out, framed, and gave this signature picture to my parents as a Christmas present (I think just last year). That picture is still at home in Riverside. My parents hung it up on the wall near by my father's seat at the kitchen table.

I was intrigued and curious about Mike because he had a suitcase full of camera equipment and a fancy Sony HD video camera in the back of his SAV-like silky-colored Lexus (now it's great to think I have my own semi-pro Sony DVX camera). I learned that not only he is the the nephew of Steve Dillin--the new, totally cool, super-intelligent jack-of-all-trades electrician hubby of Jery Lyn (my super artist aunt of the family who lives in Sebastopol, California), Mike is also an eclectic employee of Warner Brothers Studios. He's met folks like Jim Carrey and Clint Eastwood, etc, etc, etc. His witty, savvy streak and managerial skills came out flaring since the day we met. The presence of Mike Dillin right then and there implanted some Deep Seeds in my head--which took a few years to manifest. And I am sure will take a long time or a lifetime of pursuits to manifest of the full potential meaning of acquiring a familial relationship with Mike Dillin.

This past quarter I have met probably 200 new people, and most of them I have weeded out from my life (more so, failed to maintain relationships with)--and then after getting exposed to all these new humans, you come to realize and value all those few people you come to associate and spend time with, and most certainly one of them is Mike Dillin. I am sure this is perhaps crude for me to say (from the academic point of view), but I strongly feel that my cousin Mike is more intelligent and real-world practical than half or more than half (or more than 3/4ths) of all the people I meet in the academic arena, undergraduates excluded. Mike's far beyond undergrad. Perhaps he is even beyond grad school. He's in his own class, his own world. Of creative pragmatism. I bet he would win the game of Survivor on an island. I would be on his team, of course.

Despite all of Mike's cynicism and skepticism with academia--which I am close to entire agreement with--except for the very few contacts I choose to maintain on the UCSB campus--I think he is proud of me for pursuing an environmental media Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara. Given the specifications of the programming. Lots of loose conditions at UC Santa Barbara at the moment.

This is the first time in my life I am able to mentally embrace Mike Dillin and all that he has done for me... through writing this blog. As if I had patched up an ailing, aching fragmented, part of my brain. Through carving out a rough sketch of a timeline of my own personal growth through his presence. Many short paragraphs here can essentially be transformed into epic stories on their own right, but those are for another day. I need a baseline timeline here, as if I were reconstructing some form of geologic history, he he. Yet a seeming geologic history in my own life. There are many pictures to follow the dense writing of this blog. Coming to think about it, Mike Dillin and Oscar Flores are my two most solid collaborators in media. I have failed to establish trustworthy, synergistic interactions with anyone else--even in Santa Barbara. Working mutualist synergisms are rare in life to find, achieve, maintain, and innovate. But once they are achieved, they are so beautiful to experience.

I truly took for granted Mike's presence in my life. Now he is back through New Orleans. I have re-acquired Mike, his cynically optimistic essense, his sense of place and spontaneous adventure. His mastery of a zoo called Los Angeles.

Last night I gave him a big hug, and this big hug encompassed all this--all this growth of identity--vaguely sketched and skimming the surface of this blog. It was a big, meaningful hug in my mind, and it was long overdue.

Mike is King of Spontaniety. Last night I called. I came. We hung out. We both crashed, and he had to work 3am to work on a production gig for gxd knows what film or TV show.

Mike is a fundamental building block to my multi-dimensional dualist life: science merged with art, a scientist desiring to have real world pragmatism. Mike is an Abyss of Adventure. Who knows what the future shall unfold--but all I know, it will be a very interesting ride.

Mike Dillin started a blog. I know about 5 people who started blogs this quarter, which is amazing. is his Photography Website, which is much nicer than mine. *Sigh.* is his blog. He now lives on the "other side" of the Santa Monica Pier, from his original apartment--very crammed in space. It was one of the first apartments right on the beach, closest to the Santa Monica Pier from the west. Santa Monica is still the Homeless Capital of the World, to this day. I can testify.

Key Worlds: Mike Dillin, science-art, science and society, Central Casting, photography, iqr question reality website, Santa Monica, Made of Honor, medieval dark ages, Nikon D80, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alternative Addictions, Steve Dillin, Warner Brothers Studios.

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