Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What am I doing with my life?

Looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse in -20  degrees with 70km/hr winds in ankle deep water.

I ask myself, "What am I doing with my life?" on a pretty regular basis. See, I probably should be on some ship or in a small country fighting giant corporations that are out to ruin our planet. But I'm not. Instead I'm working for the big corporations, selling their wares. Some products I push I believe in more than others. I guess as an advertising professional, I can decide against producing some ideas that might pop into my head (and I have certainly had ideas that'd sell things that I just never committed to paper, for fear they might actually get produced and work a little too well). I can also decide what ad agencies I work for, thereby determining what brands I promote. One thing is for sure, being an ad guy has made me impervious to it's charms. Without getting myself in trouble, let me just say that everyone should be very involved in their purchases. I can take some comfort in the fact that I also do a lot of free thinking for charity. Especially environmental stuff. I make a point of it.

I also ask myself "What am I doing?" in my personal life. Anyone out there that has children does, and if they say they don't, they are bold-faced liars. Raising kids is the hardest thing I've ever done. There are times when kids make you want to punch yourself in the face over and over for being so stupid as to think reproducing human life was a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids fiercely and would put a city of people in their graves to save them without even thinking twice. Shepard and Georgia are worth every second of the difficulty but if you say you never EVER think it may have been easier to live out your life without kids, you lie. But, if you know Rachel and I, we rarely, if ever take the easy route.

I also question myself when it comes to this Punk Rock Big Year thing. I mean, who am I to think I know how to make a documentary? Why is my ego such that I feel the need to make a film about myself? Why would anybody even give a shit about me. I'm just Paul. There are millions of us out there. Who has time to devote to following some dude that's chasing birds around? Especially when they are all busy punching themselves in the face pondering why they ever decided to have sex in the first place. And why on earth would I EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, decide to permanently cover the vast majority of my body in Latin words, very few of which I even know the actual meaning of? It seems crazy. It is crazy. There are so many times when I just think, "Stop it, stop being so weird and just be a normal person. Normal people don't do this." And believe me, when I'm standing ankle deep in ice-water in 70km/hr winds with watering eyes that pretty much instantly freeze up, 800km from my wife and kids, I can't help but think I'm wasting my time here. Its even worse that I did that whole trip in 36 hours.

Then, I get a random message on Facebook. It goes like this:

Hey man, just wanted to send a little note of INSPIRATION to you. When I first heard about your Big Year, I kind of might have said "He's gonna what? try to see a bunch of birds this year" "Then I might have said a little something like "What the heck, I see birds all the time?"

Here's where the message gets a little nice. I have to admit, I'm not a bird watcher or anything but I do know a little bit about identifying a few birds, probably more than the average person, but I've been reading all your blogs and posts and I'm finding the whole thing fascinating. Your travels, the different causes and all the other stuff.

Around April we started going down to the conservation area by us to feed the birds by hand. Chickadees, woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays all those a plenty. From there we ended up putting some feeders in our yard. I've been guilty of calling the birds with my Ipod but have since stopped after reading your post about people like me who do that.

Anyways man, just wanted to let you know that it's been interesting following your Big Year, even as a non-birder. I have to give credit to my kids for getting me started by wanting to go feed the chickadees and stuff but your Big Year definitely has increased my interest in our feathered friends and might have helped me sound smart when talking to my family about birds, and I love sounding smart. Not sure if I can still call myself a non-birder as whenever I hear a different call I usually try to find it to see what it is (something i never really used to do before) but I can never find them.

Good luck with the rest of your year!

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to keep going, someone got more into birding because of PRBY, and not only that, they took their kids with them and those kids might now be part of our future generation of birders. That's why I'm doing this. Get young kids to care about birds, appreciate natural beauty, and they can't help but want to preserve it. They, and the generations after them, are the only ones who can ensure our planet doesn't go the way of the Dodo. Because we will all be dirt before too long. I'm already halfway to my end. That means we don't have much time and we need to keep at them. If it means covering my body in ink to get their attention, I'm up for it. I just hope there are others behind me that will do things as crazy, or crazier, to get people riled up and giving a shit.

Paul Riss
Punk Rock Big Year


  1. Man, THAT'S why you should make the documentary. It ain't about ego. It's about sharing the wonderment that we find in nature with people for whom it may have gone unnoticed, and hopefully making some converts along the way.

    Keep up the Good Work.

  2. Thanks man. I just e-mailed a good friend to see if they want to go look for shorebirds this weekend...

  3. I thought you might be interested in this blog post - not sure if someone has already linked this to you but just in case not:

    I'm certainly enjoying your blog - so don't give up!

  4. Alvan, thanks for your note. I've sent binocularface a message. Hope they get back to me. My wife just started a series of bird paintings that I think would really suit that project. I love their idea. And will do everything I can to share it to everyone I know.

    I won't give up. I met with my producer today and we talked about things moving forward. An amazing CGI artist just said he'd donate his time to doing titles and stuff for the final film too. And, I emailed a good friend about going out to look for shorebirds today... I'm glad you are enjoying PRBY.

  5. Must have missed this one, Just saw it now. Another great blog. The fellow who wrote you sounds like a nice man.