This Must Be The Place is the official blog and current home of jamesklambert.com.
WHO AM I?
To quote one of my favorite songs, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I was born at the beginning of the 1970s, which I later learned was a volatile time for America (from the end of the Vietnam War and Watergate, to gas lines, homegrown terrorism, cocaine, disco, and stagflation). My memories of life in suburbia, however, were pretty tame. We locked our doors (why invite trouble?) but we never actually expected any real trouble to find us, and it never did. My parents were professional musicians and I dreamed of becoming a writer.
By the mid-80s was quite the pseudo intellectual rebel; reading Marx and Malcolm X, and dabbling in conspiracy theories. I also developed a strong desire to run away from everything, which lead me into the Army right out of high school, despite my mixed feelings about supporting, “the system.” I arrived at basic training one week before Saddam invaded Kuwait and all of the sudden things got very serious. I mentally adjusted to the shock of being yelled at everyday but I wasn’t physically cut out for it. After failing my final PT test I had some x-rays taken of my back, which was in constant pain, and the doctor told me, “You should never have been allowed in.” I spent most of the 90s adrift after that.
I gave up on the Christian faith I had been raised with and imagined I was too smart to believe in God. I also moved away from my lefty radicalism and started reading free market, libertarian, classical liberal ideas. On a personal level I was a mess; drinking heavily and chasing after random woman for years (it’s kind of a blur). I also got into financial trouble while working for a very unusual man named Mark Foster and his CD-ROM company, Quanta Press. Mark was making buckets of money for a time, before most people knew what CD-ROMs were, and before any big players got into the market. I followed his example and spent money even faster than it rolled in. When his business tanked he owed me more than $40,000 but I was on the low end of his long list of debts. Mark had a couple of guys take him out into a field and shoot him; making his suicide look like a murder. He died but the plan failed. The insurance money didn’t pay out to his new wife and his accomplices went to jail.
Things did not change for me over night but I did turn a corner and set out on a new path. Soon I met the woman I would marry she encouraged me to go back to school and make something of myself. I earned my undergraduate degree and decided I really wanted to be a filmmaker, so we moved to Texas where I completed an MFA program that focused on nonfiction film. Since then I have worked on a Sundance Award Winning documentary, TV Junkie (2006), and some other productions, but I’ve made my living as a teacher.
WHAT DO I BELIEVE?
I have always been searching for answers and questioning assumptions. When I went back to school, particularly for my undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota, I was surprised and disappointed at just how lockstep the instructors and curriculum was. The pro-socialist, even pro-Marxist, anti-American clichés that passed for high-minded reasoning all reminded me of my childhood, and not in a warm fuzzy, nostalgic way. Far too often, straw men and cartoon caricatures were the only thing my educators had to offer me. I resolved to not allow my thinking to comfortably stagnate, nor would I ever seek to indoctrinate others.
September 11, 2001 was a significant turning point in my worldview. It began my journey back to faith in Jesus and it caused me to increasingly label myself as a “conservative,” despite the shortcomings of all labels. I believe that there is great value in looking toward the past to find answers to present questions and future challenges. I also believe that those who want society to change have the burden of proof to explain why that change would be the right thing to do. I am not, however, a reactionary, who feels threatened by change in general, or people who are different from me. My idea of conservatism is based on a strong desire to preserve the liberal society I was fortunate enough to be born into. It is a mature, thoughtful, and tempered view of the world that refuses to jump headlong into the latest fad or fashion but does not reflexively oppose everything new. In recent years I have become increasingly disgusted by in the so-called, “real conservatism” of Tea Party Patriots, Donald Trump, and others, whose lockstep mentality and clichés slogans about the imminent destruction of America are full of straw men arguments and cartoon caricatures of reality, which overshadow any good points they have to make.
We all live in a sea of media voices today and it is easy to drowned amid the waves of popular opinion without encountering ideas that actually inform us or make us think. Like Socrates, and many wiser men who came before me, I realize that neither I, nor anyone, has all the right answers, but my work is an honest effort to seek the truth and poke holes in wrong answers that are too readily accepted. I am a particularly vocal critic of conspiracy theories, hyperbolic rhetoric (be it “Bush is Hitler” or “Obama is Hitler”), and the perpetual “crisis” mentality that dominates so many public conversations today. Because if everything is a crisis, then nothing is a crisis, and we can’t make any intelligent distinctions about the dangers or opportunities we face.
WHY “THIS MUST BE THE PLACE?”
The cover photo for my blog was taken from an actual 1895 train wreck in Paris, France. I realize it was a tragic event for the people who were killed at the time but now, well over a century later, I find some humor in the idea that the conductor might emerge from the rubble and exclaim, “This must be the place.” I also like the fact that 1895 marks the birth of cinema, when the Lumiere brothers had their first paid screening of short films, coincidentally, in Paris. The blog name, however, had nothing to do with train crashes or movies when I first borrowed it from the Talking Heads song, “This must be the place;” I just really like the song and thought it would be a good blog name.
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