Old Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker
Just watched a fascinating interview with Charlie Rose, Sarah Jessica Parker and writer / producer Michael Patrick King. King was the real revelation. He is an intelligent, articulate writer who obviously has a great working relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker. Don't get me wrong, I could watch Sarah Jessica read the phone book and not be bored, but King was fascinating and he was sitting at a tough table. This conversation on Thursday's May 29th, 2008 Charlie Rose is part of the media blitz related to tomorrow night's release of the feature movie developed from HBO's Sex and the City televison series. I will go to the movie and blog some thoughts about SJP reading the phone book or whatever lands. While we wait to steal tonight's Charlie Rose video, watch this 2005 interview. Loved it when SJP told Charlie she was awkward and intimidated by "cool" kids back in the day. So if SJP isn't a "cool kid" who the heck is?
The Family Stone is funny and warm even as it is predictable and a tad shallow. I've rented worse, so if you want to have a SJP fix this weekend without going to the mall rent The Family Stone and stay tuned for Charlie's discussion tonight. Will post tonight's clip here as soon as they do.
Read more about Sara Jessica Parker and other people that could read the phonebook in interesting ways at http://www.ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Old Interview with Sarah Jessica Parker
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I was trying to date my trip to Dobbs Ferry for the “work a day with Seth” conference. I had to use my divorce as a marker (lol). It was 2002. Seth used to have “work with Seth” days. I don’t think he does it anymore. There was a $2K "tuition" fee to a charity. There was only one problem.
I was broke. Every dollar I had was in FoundObjects.com (now RIP). I sold my Litespeed titanium bicycle to pay for airfare to head north for a day in Dobbs Ferry with Seth. My Litespeed had Campy all the way around (sweet bicycle). It was an indulgence I could afford before leaving corporate America, before moving to North Carolina to become an entrepreneur.
Lance Armstrong wrote an excellent book entitled It’s Not About The Bike and he is right if you last name is Armstrong. That bike made me feel like a superhero. My riding may not have commanded respect on the Chicago lakefront, but that bike did. So for at least a short moment in a galaxy far, far away it was about the bike :).
I emailed Seth and told him I was broke and couldn’t afford “tuition” for the conference. Seth asked participants to donate $2,000 to a charity to save the rainforest. I love the rainforest and want it saved, but Seth could have asked for $20 and I couldn’t have covered. Many things were at an end.
Everything was changing...again.
I didn’t know much about Internet marketing in 2002, but I knew Seth Godin preached truth. Seth's book The Idea Virus and the Gladwell's book The Tipping Point changed my marketing life.
I learned sequential marketing at P&G and M&M/Mars. We would sit in conference rooms with white boards and draw MTP plans (Medium Term Plans lasting 3 years). Our “marketing” was so neat and orderly and all so utterly crazy (lol).
I was trained to sell to the cushy middle, the breadbasket well across Geoffrey Moore's famous chasm. * There was a marketing sequence, rules and predictable expectations. We would create the new thing. Kudos was the last new candy brand I worked on at Mars.
Our MTP would figure out how to spend $20,000,000 or so in TV and print. We paid the “slotting allowances” demanded by Harris Teeter, Winn Dixie, Kroger, et.al. Distribution was the challenge not the product itself. Once you shouldered your way onto the grocery store shelf, life was assured. Cross that goal off the sheet and life would be good.
Then marketing life changed.
Jeff Bezos changed it. Two guys from Stanford changed it (Google). Seth changed it.
I told Seth about sacrificing the Litespeed and that I was broke. He was cool with me joining the “work with Seth” gang despite not being able to help his charity. I became Seth’s charity and he was and is very generous. How many uber-marketing moguls do you know who answer their own email?
Arriving in Grand Central Station
Seth’s instruction was meet at the information booth in Grand Central Station. This is instruction enough because the information booth sits like an island in the stream with beautiful art deco balls that say “information”.
By the time Seth’s bald head, his brand, bobbed toward us the "work with Seth Godin" crew knew a little bit about each other. We happy few represented a full spectrum of e-commerce from large health care, regional ad agencies and a tiny gift distributor who sold his bike to be there.
Seth bounced up said, “follow me” and we were off to catch the train to Dobbs Ferry. Following Seth I remembered how geese imprint on a mother goose. Once they see mom they don’t lose mom again. We twenty-five goslings followed our mother goose into the catacombs of a bright clean Grand Central.
We sat down together taking up an old car with backward seats. It was mid-morning so few were on the train heading out of New York. Once seated Seth asked us to team in threes. He handed out pieces of paper. On slips of paper were questions such as, “What should Kaza do?” We had about five minutes to bat a question around before being reformed into new groups and handed a new question. Seth said little reading a book on most of the ride north.
Another question was, “How would you improve the Google site design?”. That is an aces and eights question – answer it and you are dead. You can’t improve the Google page design. Even Google has a VP whose job it is to bat new home page suggestions to the ground. On the train that day we were still uninitiated, we weren’t part of the Holy See yet, we were just goslings on a train heading north.
Seth’s assistant who is more like an intern met us at the station and we piled into a borrowed van to get to Seth’s studio. I’ve been an artist a long time and visited studios including Keith Harring’s (visited his foundation after his death), Peter Max (long strange trip to be told fully soon) and Louise Nevelson (great visit with my mother) and Seth’s place was right at home with this crew. His building was old Dobbs Ferry industrial not far from the Hudson.
Seth had half the second floor. Walking in the door the first thing we saw was a huge blow up of the bald head and impish eyes. The room was a big open L. Seth moved us to the middle of the L. There was a wide circle of cushions, drums and tambourines all thrown about very upstate New York hippie sheek. Seth motioned us to sit. We did so in unison. Imprinting dies hard.
Seth started our meeting with a "drum circle". Drum–circles are cool. Everyone starts beating. It sounds awful. In a split second there is emergent cohesion in another second twenty-five people are beating drums and tambourines in unison. Very cool.
We spent the morning discussing Seth’s books. He was writing Purple Cow at that time. Things came up like Moore’s Crossing the Chasm idea and Seth would say, “yeah that is interesting, I have to use that (and he did extensively in Purple Cow).” Everything we tossed was either in a Godin book or about to be. Seth sees the whole field and is open to any idea, any thread that creates new space. Elastic would be a single word description of Seth’s process.
Everything Bad Is Good For You, by Steven Johnson describes our need to probe and telescope, probe and telescope. Seth is a probing and telescoping robot. The cool thing is not one time did he ever make anyone feel small, insignificant or stupid. It was like riding with Lance. You knew he could drop you at will but appreciated the generosity of collaboration, suggestion and consideration.
After discussing books written and unwritten all morning we broke for a box lunch. In the morning I was my usual self. I was younger then and wanted Seth’s approval. I read a lot and can usually see how thread A relates to thread B, so I tried to be “smart guy.”
Again, Seth was generous. He could have treated “smart guy” me harshly. Twenty-five people didn’t come to New York to hear what I was thinking (lol). Not only did Seth not smack me even when I deserved a light chop, he rewarded me by treating me as a fellow traveler.
He built on one or two of my ideas. At the break I asked him in my best puppy-dog fashion, “was I alright?” I was really asking was I too much of a pain in the rear. Putting his hand on my shoulder Seth said, “you were a star.” Seth knew what was coming.
Web Site Review
Want to find the land of humble pie fast have Seth Godin review your website in front of twenty-five peers. I wrote every line of code on FoundObjedts.com, Photoshopped every image and wrote every word. FoundObjects.com was the closest thing to a child I will ever have.
Now my baby was going to be judged. Ouch! Seth spent fifteen minutes or so on each site using an old fashioned overhead projector. He made great penetrating suggestions and left us all spent and ready for the train ride home.
Sometimes you see the hand of God. Sometimes he is bald. ** On the train ride back to Grand Central I got to know Red Maxwell. The irony, and here is the strange hand of God thing, is Red lives an hour from me. Red is from North Carolina. I sell my bike to meet a hero in Dobbs Ferry and meet someone who will be a lifelong friend. Serendipity maybe or the strange workings of the great bald one. Believe what you want. I am going with the bald story.
* Moore Crossing the Chasm a marketing "must read".
** I was thinking about God one day, not sure why, and realized that she isn’t one mysterious huge thing you see when you die. She is like the song says, “one of us.” If you look carefully you see her hand for brief flickering moments playing a trumpet, riding a bike or writing a book. I amuse myself by creating God Haiku’s that always have two lines. Sometimes you see the hand of God. Sometimes he holds a paint brush (Robert Rauschenberg). Sometimes you see the hand of God. Sometimes she cooks a meal (Paul Prudhomme). Send me your God Haikus.
Read more about Seth Godin at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Summer Turns To Fall
Much, much too fast summer 2008 is giving way to fall. Just as there are museums built for summer some art venues shine in the fall. Read The Art Rat's Top 5 Fall Museums.
Best Summer Museums
I am a museum rat. Like famed bank robber Willie Sutton who said that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is,” I go to museums because that is where the art is. My favorite museum list will tend toward American museums with strong contemporary art collections. Some day, I hope to visit the Van Gogh Museum, see I. M. Pei's pyramid at the Louvre and God touching life into man at the Sistine Chapel. Summer may seem a strange time to think about going to a museum. Beautiful summer days can thin crowds, so you might be alone with Gilbert and George, Frida Kahlo or Louise Bourgeois this summer. Isn't such an audience worth a smmer day? My top 5 Summer 2008 Museum Picks...
Milwaukee Museum of Art (MMA)
I loved this museum even before they added the wild hat by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava’s sweeping dashing movement captured in steel flies over the lake like a graceful ten-ton bird. Ten-ton birds don’t seem like they can fly, but this one does. The MMA staff deserves special kudos for seamless blending of old and new, classic and contemporary. Being able to look at a painting by Julian Schnabel positioned so you can look past it and out to Lake Michigan is a special treat. The lake isn’t the only reason MMA is #1 on my list. Milwaukee is like the little engine that could. Smaller, more accessible and consistently more funky than its Chicago cousins, MMA earns its stripes the hard way. The MMA's proximity right on the lake and in the middle of the city’s lake front park makes the Milwaukee Museum of Art the #1 summer museum.
Summer Show: Gilbert and George June 14th to September 1st, 2008.
Walker Art Center
Claes Oldenberg’s Spoonbridge and Cherry (photo), 1985 – 1988 is probably why the Walker Art Center comes in #2. The Walker has one of the best contemporary sculpture collections in the country including Jenny Holzer benches, Calder’s huge steel Octopus, 1964 and Martin Puryear’s totem-like Ampersand, 1987 – 1988 just to name a few highlights. The seasons are hard on Twin Cities residents. They love being outdoors in the summer. Indoors the Walker Art Center is no slouch. The Walker Art Center tends to see things before other museums. Trust that the show for the artist you’ve never heard of will be something you talk about in a year when everyone is discussing what the Walker already knew.
Summer Show: Richard Prince Spiritual America
The Menil Collection
Houston may seem a strange place to visit in summer. It is hot and sticky, but everything is air-conditioned and the Menil’s collection is worth dealing with the heat. Situated in a tree-lined residential neighborhood, the Menil collection includes out buildings for Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly. The Twombly building includes large graffiti Twombly’s wall to wall. It was a revelation and closer to the religious experience hoped for by Rothko. The collection itself is stellar and strange. You can see marks of the owners, John and Dominique de Menil, in the collection. What they loved they bought, and they loved great contemporary America art. Keep an eye out for the Joseph Cornell box.
Summer Show: The Menil collection tends to focus on its collection instead of blockbuster shows. When you have the Rothko Chapel and a building dedicated to Cy Twombly you can afford to chill. It is too hot to do anything else. If you are in Houston to see the Menil, stop by The Houston Contemporary for a good side trip.
SF Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA)
San Francisco, California
SF MoMA is one of my favorite museums and is there ever a “bad” time to go to San Fran? I think not. This summer there is are two reasons to go to SF MoMA and they would be Frida and Khalo. This is a blockbuster show that friends have seen and can’t say enough about. If you love Frida as I do this is THE SHOW. If you don’t know Khalo’s work go to this show and you will become a fan. One warning, Frida’s work is advanced calculus. Like all good things, it doesn’t come for free. Worth the work and being inside on a beautiful summer day, go see paintings whose truth and beauty is immediate, undeniable and, at times, shocking.
Summer Show: Frida Khalo June 14th to September 28th
New York City
Picking a New York museum can be tough in the summer because everyone gets out of town. If you have to be in the city on a hot summer day, you should be across the street from the park. There are a few museums that meet that criteria, but only one was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Guggenheim may be one of the worst museums to actually see art with its undeniable gravitational pull, but small price to pay for building as art. Louise Bourgeois seems to have reached a magical art tipping point with a major retrospective at the Guggenheim and a soon-to-be-released feature by Amei Wallach entitled The Spider, The Mistress and the Tangerine. If Kahlo is advanced calculus then Louise Bourgeois is organic chemistry. Get the guide, keep your mind open take the elevator to the top of the Guggenheim and let the ghost of FLW pull you to the floor.
Summer Show: Louise Bourgeois June 27th to September 28th
Read more about art, business and museums at ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
It took no time at all to sell my Rauschenberg's. The Talking Heads 50,000 limited edition Speaking In Tongues record combined with the signed book from the 1992 MCA show flew off E-Bay in an hour. I put a high "Buy Now" price on the book and album hoping no one would care. I was wrong. Someone smarter and wiser has my treasure now for alms, for nothing.
I've made mistakes in life. Selling my Rauschenbergs is up there in the top ten. I didn't sleep much last night after hearing about Rauschenberg's death. I stayed up writing about how magical it was to meet "Bob" at that MCA show. Read
Meeting Robert Rauschenberg to know why I put Bob in quotes. Seeing book and album last night would have helped calm emotions. Sometimes things matter sometimes they don't. Those two things mattered. Each thing, each object, was really a captured time, an encapsulated memory.
I purchased the Talking Heads album with three colorful limited edition Rauschenberg lithos in Buffalo. My ex-wife Janet McKean and I lived on Kenwood Avenue just down from the Albright Knox Art Museum (one of my favorite museums). Art was all around us. We saw Jenny Holzer's show and Milton Avery's show at the Albright that year. It was cold, always cold. We were young (26 or so) and didn't care. Every picture of that time we are wearing big bulky sweaters. Even our Siamese cats, O'Keefe and Jasper, looked cold. Janet was working for Sibley's, a regional big box department store (last of the breed). I was working for M&M/Mars. Buffalo is working class artistic. Life is hard and true. I found the Rauschenberg cover of the Talking Heads Speaking In Tongues album in a record store, remember those, with wooden floors and old-time record bins. I had to have it. I should have bought five, but even one was a splurge. We had no money. Even so, Janet didn't give me a hard time about the Rauschenberg. She knew what Rauschenberg's art meant to me.
Meeting Robert Rauschenberg tells the story of day in 1992 when Janet invited me to a "bigwig only" cocktail reception for the artist at the MCA. We were older in Chicago in 1992. We still had no money and, once again, Janet said nothing about such an extravagant purchase. "With my discount it isn't that bad," she said about the fifty dollar book. Having "Bob" sign the book made it priceless.
Sometimes you are an idiot. Sometimes you are even dumber. I lost things in our divorce. One of those things, for at least a little while, was me. When you are lost you just want to find your way home. Selling those memories would help I thought. It had too. It didn't. It didn't because moving things out of the house doesn't remove them from your heart or brain. In my heart and mind I feel Buffalo cold, see cats curled into a chair, hear Speaking In Tongues and remember Janet's easy smile and loving touch. I also remember a day when Robert Rauschenberg tapped me on the shoulder before entering a cold Chicago night.
Vaya con Dios Robert Rauschenberg. Vaya con Dios Janet. Vaya con Dios an older and wiser Martin.
Robert Rauschenberg on Charlie Rose
Meeting Robert Rauschenberg
Recalling Robert Rauschenberg
Read more about Robert Rauschenberg at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Aimee Wallach's article about hanging with Robert Rauschenberg is funny, entertaining and insightful. Her recounting of what it was like to be around the artist some publication called "the American Picasso." That Picasso quote is the usual stuff written after the artist's death on this past Monday. Lobbying the usual bromides are a disservice to one of our most creative. I understand the Picasso quote because both artists were innovative and inventive. I don't understand the Picasso quote. It judges a new meme only through the bones of the old. Both artists deserve better and Amei Wallach corrects the Rauschenberg wrong with this magical article.
Amei Wallach's Recalling Robert Rauschenberg - use this like to go to the Smithsonian article. BTW, someone needs to do a Wiki on Amei because she is amazing.
Meeting Robert Rauschenberg - use this link to go to my memory of meeting the artist in 1992.
Read more about Robert Rauschenberg and other artist at ScentTrail.blogspot.com
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
You couldn't call Robert Rauschenberg Mr. Rauschenberg. He wouldn't let you. "Please call me Bob," I remember him instructing me as my ex-wife Janet McKean, then the Store Manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art, introduced me to one of my heroes. "Sure," I remember stammering even as I thought, "no way." Mr. Rauschenberg was in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary art. It was the opening day for the Robert Rauschenberg The Early 1950's show in 1992.
My hand shook as I asked "Bob" to sign a copy of his book. He had a gold paint pen. He shook the pen quickly three or four times to move ink to the mashed brush. His gold signature lit the book's black inner-leaf on fire. His signature was looping and he signed both his names. His name flowed across the seam involving both pages. Coloring inside the lines was not something Rauschenberg cared much about even signing a book. Watching him do such a practiced motion cast a spell. As that pen flew across the book's inner pages I could glimpse every creation. I could see the goat with the tire around its middle (Monogram, 1955–59). I could see the flying Coke bottles (Coca-Cola Plan, 1958 below). There was a tiny bit of my favorite painting Untitled Combine Painting, 1954. I've spent about a day staring at Untitled Combine Painting at SF MoMA (painting is below) over the years. I've seen Untitled Combine, 1954 ten times or more and it never ceases to amaze and delight. Bob smiled and chatted about his trip and the installation of his show. I couldn't speak (not usually a problem). After twenty minutes Janet gently guided me away. "You alright," she asked me. I felt like a very small child meeting his favorite ball player or actor.
I had to sit down. For years I tried to channel this man's courage and creativity. If I met the devil at the crossroads and he promised me an eternity of pain for half of "Bob's" inventiveness and creativity I would have happily traded. At night I dreamed of cold lofts with large paintings and Jasper Johns upstairs. In those dreams we (Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg and me) had long talks about art and artists. We would drink slowly, smoke cigarettes and talk until dawn. Apparently I drink and smoke in my dreams (lol).
Janet had to leave and attend to duties. She left me in an out-of-the-way chair with standing people milling around. I sat for about an hour hugging Bob's book to my chest. My mind was far way. It was playing a slide show of favorite paintings by the man I just met. People around me chatted and drank happy to soak up creative energy from a living supernova. They paid no attention. I didn't feel the first tap on my shoulder. On the second or third tap I looked up to see "Bob" smiling down at me, "it was nice to meet you young man," he said. I don't know why I said this, but I said "Thank you." Robert Rauschenberg's handlers moved him out into the black Chicago night.
Thank You Mr. Rauschenberg. Thank You Bob. Vaya con Dios.
Untitled Combine Painting, 1954
Monday, May 19, 2008
The dangerous day Julio taught me about capitalism.
My friend Julio is Chinese (mother) and Puerto Rican (father). He is tiny only five foot five about a hundred and thirty pounds. A study in motion, Julio is never still. I haven’t seen Julio in more than twenty years, but his constant state of motion was unforgettable. Sitting his hands would stroke his wispy black mustache and goatee. Standing he bounced from boot heel to boot heel. Julio wore expensive leather boots with inside zippers. Walking with Julio was an Olympic event not a stroll. Julio never strolled.
Julio grew up in the Bronx where you walk with purpose or you stay home. Always aware, Julio’s eyes were the most active things on a kinetic body. Julio’s eyes, even when sitting in the Vassar dinning hall, watched front and back doors, always the doors. Julio would sit with his back to the wall like an old west gun fighter eyes flicking between doors. Front, back, pick up a fork, eat a little, front, back and repeat with only occasional glances at you if you were speaking directly to him. This level of awareness, this “paranoid now”, took some getting used to. Growing up in Texas and then Greenwich, Connecticut, I didn’t learn gun fighter logic. I knew how to put tape on my Top-Siders to get another half a year out of them. I knew how to break in a lacrosse stick. I knew how to buy stereo components that could, when put in dorm windows, play jazz to the entire campus. Julio and I were born on different planets.
I liked Julio. He is what I imagine hanging with Miles Davis would be like – never boring. Julio would listen to Miles with me, but he preferred salsa and Cuban beats. One day, almost thirty years ago, Julio asked me to take a ride with him to State University of New York (SUNY), New Paltz. I never bought drugs from Julio. I knew he was a dealer. Everyone knew. He drove an expensive BMW, wore designer clothes and never let you pick up a tab. Julio was my friend not my dealer. Julio respected this unspoken boundary and never, until that day at lunch, asked me for anything.
“What is this about Julio,” I asked suspiciously. “I need muscle,” Julio told me straight out eyes flicking to the door. Julio didn’t lie, another thing I liked about him. If he said anything else it would have been a lie. I wouldn’t have taken the ride. “Sure,” I said simply. I was not a large guy (am larger now I am afraid but not in a good way), but I benched my weight plus fifty pounds when I was twelve. That can intimidate people who don’t know better. I played football and lacrosse and didn’t mind getting hit. It is something you get used to. Large guys with pads had been hitting me most of my life. I went to Vassar to use my head for something other than hitting people. Now, in a moment of supreme stupidity, I put myself in more danger than any football game. Why did I do it? What was I thinking?
It was a Risky Business moment. In the movie, Tom Cruise looks directly into the camera, slides classic Ray Bans back on his nose, lights a cigarette and says, “Sometimes you just have to say what the fuck.” This was that moment. Julio drove to SUNY with windows down. His arm hung out the window. Every now and then Julio would fly his hand flat like a plane’s wing. Wind would move his hand up, down then up. He never looked over at me. He let me play Miles Davis Birth of the Cool. We crossed the Mid-Hudson Bridge. The Hudson flowed quiet and serene below. Julio’s BMW cut the cliffs on the west side. The sun was setting. It would be dark when we reached SUNY.
SUNY is larger than Vassar, but Julio knew where we were going. He parked and turned off the car. “Martin,” Julio rarely used my name so I knew this was serious, “whatever I do in there you follow me.” I nodded. I didn’t say anything. I was scared. “Don’t worry,” Julio said with a slight smile. “These guys are chumps,” more teeth and bigger smile now and that tiny Cuban high-pitched laugh Julio had. “Everything is going to be fine,” and with that we got out of the car and walked among identical building with large black numbers on the side. I tried to remember the numbers. It was impossible. Everything looked the same.
Inside these grey buildings were as confusing as outside. A series of labyrinth like turns following clues only Julio understood finally moved us to the right door, the drug dealer door. I remember thinking, “if I have to get out of here I am dead.” Standing at the door Julio smiled one last time very fast before putting on a different look, his game face. His head dropped forty-five degrees. He stared at the door like he could bore a hole in it with his eyes. It looked like Julio had a helmet and mouth guard on. His teeth were tight and bared. He knocked three times in rapid succession.
Someone yelled something inside. Someone yelled something else. The door opened. There were two guys in the tight room. The guy to my left was sprawled on a couch. Let’s call him “couchboy.” The couch had large holes and many cigarette burns. Couchboy’s head turned slowly toward the interruption otherwise he didn’t move. There was a blonde guy in the middle of the room. He welcomed us much like a circus Ring Master. No small talk. We didn’t exchange names. Someone came from the other room with a large ziplock baggie full to the brim with a pound of pot. Third Guy handed the pot to Julio glancing at me.
Julio sat down. Couchboy moved a just a little leg so I could sit. I wasn’t sure sitting was a good idea. Standing seemed dangerous too. Couchboy was dangerous. He looked past us not at us. I saw no empathy, no smile. I saw smoldering anger and contempt when he looked quickly over Julio’s head. Couchboy was the dangerous one. Turning down Couchboy’s offer to sit could spark a smoldering fire. I sat and looked right at Couchboy. I was trying to send my toughest stare, but what was I going to do beat Couchboy to death with my Topsider? Couchboy didn’t know me I assured myself.
Julio was having a lively conversation with Ring Master now. He wasn’t screaming, but it was close. “What is all this shake,” he was saying pointing at the baggie. I had no idea what shake was. Shake, Julio would explain later, was the twigs, mud and crap in a pound of pot. Shake was flotsam and jetsam. You couldn’t sell it or smoke it. It was trash.
Julio threw the pound at the Ring Master and got up. I followed his clue brushing Couchboy’s leg as I got up. Couchboy sat up. Here we go I thought. Couchboy was on his feet now. I took a step back. I didn’t turn. I heard Julio turn the doorknob loudly. Julio was behind me. I stopped moving. Moving further would have been the wrong thing to do. It would have told them I was as scared as I was and I didn’t want to do that. Couchboy halved distance between us. He was at arm’s length now. I turned sideways and bent at the waist lowering my shoulder expecting a lunge.
“Wait, wait,” the Ring Master said in an overly friendly tone. “You know your merchandise Julio I will give you that, give me a second,” Ring Master said as he disappeared into the other room. Couchboy took two steps back relaxing his shoulders and rolling his neck. I heard a chiropractic crack. He sat back down on the couch. I remained standing. Standing was the only option now. Julio moved in front of me accepting a new pound from Ring Master. Even an untrained eye, mine, could see this pot was different. It was almost all bud very little “shake.”
“Good,” was the single word Julio said as he took the exact amount of money needed, something he never told me and I never asked, out of his front pocket. Julio and I backed out of the room like gun fighters. Couchboy was playing with a rubber band rolling it between his fingers. He didn’t look up as we backed out, but I stayed for an extra moment, an extra beat. I could feel my fear. It was in my throat like in one-on-one football drills. Drills we used to run. Ten yards, two guys, one ball, one massive hit. You both die a little each time you do this drill. Doing it despite knowing how much it will hurt is the point, if there ever was a point. Couchboy and I almost did the drill. I didn’t take my eyes off Couchboy. My peripheral vision handled Ring Master and third guy. Couchboy was the game and he just kept rolling the rubber band. Couchboy nodded his head ever so slightly just before I took my last backward step out into the hall. I nodded my head a tiny amount.
We rode back listening to Tito Puente with windows down. Every now and then Julio would fly his hand flat like a plane. He watched the road. Twice he turned his head and smiled his big Chinese Puerto Rican smile. He would laugh a little laugh for no reason. We never discussed those fifteen minutes at SUNY. The only payment for my assistance was the experience. Now more than twenty years later every now and again I roll my window down and fly my hand like a plane thinking of Julio down by the schoolyard. As I write this, the Hudson River flows quiet and serene on a moonless night winding its way south to the ocean.
Read more about Julio, capitalism and Martin at ScenTrail.blogspot.com.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
A light bulb moment happened about three years ago. The bright and annoying light that went on above my head was a simple idea – in a socially networked world where word-of-mouth marketing is critical women are more important than men. There may be other reasons why women are more important than men, but this light bulb was about marketing.
I registered FeminineFuture.com with every intention of cranking out a book. Intentions are funny things and they don’t type, so the book is still in my head. There was no data to support my idea two years ago. It was a gut call created from my daily experience as an e-commerce Director watching print advertising do less and less and word-of-mouth marketing do more and more.
My initial gut reaction is now supported by data (love it when that happens). Here are results from a 2008 Rapleaf study of 30,000,000 people who use social networks.
* Of those with at least one friend, 53.57% are female and 46.43% are male.Man I love it when a plan comes together. Women are more important than men in a socially networked world where word-of-mouth is critical. This rule applies if you are marketing just about anything.
* Social Networkers (those with 1-100 friends):
o Constitute about 80% of the sample set.
o Women have on average 62 friends.
o Men have on average 57 friends.
o Women are more likely to be “Social Networkers.”
* Connectors (100-1,000 friends):
o Constitute about 19% of the sample set.
o Women have on average 185 friends.
o Men have on average 172 friends.
Women are more likely to be “Connectors.”
* Super Connectors (1,000-10,000 friends):
o Constitute 0.66% of the sample set.
o Women have on average 1,837 friends.
o Men have on average 1,944 friends.
o Men are more like to be “Super Connectors.”
* Uber Connectors (10,000+ friends)
o Constitute 0.02% of the sample set.
o Women have on average 24,077 friends.
o Men have on average 24,584 friends.
o Men are more likely to be “Uber Connectors.”
A prior Rapleaf study found that women spend more time on social networks than men do. And though on average women also have slightly more friends than men do, the difference isn’t substantial. Rapleaf therefore theorizes that women are spending more time on social networks building and nurturing relationships, whereas men are likely spending more time acquiring relationships (a transactional approach) than nurturing them.
There will be product categories, cigars comes immediately to mind, where this new rule may not apply. That is too strong a statement. The smart cigar site will include women so they use their connector skills to help spread word-of-mouth. Cigars for Women sure sounds like an interesting marketing idea to me. Women may not be the most important connectors in a given category, but ignore the Feminine Future at your peril. Exceptions prove the rule.
What about uber-connectors? Having uber-connectors, those people with over 10,000 connections, creating word-of-mouth about your brand or products is "home run" ball, swinging for the fences. Nothing wrong with that, but your batting average will stink and scrappy teams hitting singles and doubles will probably crush you. View uber-connectors as happy accidents. One of the biggest problems is knowing when an uber-connector walks into your web site - another article for a different time.
Think for just a minute about how powerful these uber-connectors are these days? Do you think that power has escaped their attention? I don't think so. These 10,000+ uber-connectors will be tough. Good luck with that, the Feminine Future will focus on creating better marketing to reach women with a special emphasis on connectors.
I am not a woman. I don't even play one on TV. I spent four years at Vassar and that helps, but it doesn't get the book written. This is why I need your help (men and women). Please spend a few moments answering these questions. Email your thoughts to email@example.com:
- Do you think women are more important than men in a socially networked world? Why?
- How should information about women spending more time on social network sites change a company’s marketing strategy?
- Have you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point? If so, do you think the logical extension of this social network data is there are more women connectors than men?
- What are the implications of more women than men connectors for anyone marketing anything?
- How many friends are in your LinkedIn profile or FaceBook page?
- How would you classify yourself as connector, maven or salesman?
- What questions would you like to answer that I am not asking
The Feminine Future will take you to site where there is an email subscribe option. Use it if you would like to be kept up-to-date on the Feminine Future.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Redbelt, David Mamet’s new movie, is about honor. Perhaps more accurately Mamet’s story is about how hard it is to be honorable. We meet Mike Terry, the film’s hero, as he teaches a cop named Joe martial arts. The setting is simple and clean. Joe is fighting and fighting hard in a plain inner-city dojo. As he fights, we see Joe’s sweat and exhaustion. You feel his pain. Mike, his teacher, in a forceful almost yelling but calm voice says “Improve the position!” “Insist on the move!” “Breathe.” “There’s always an escape.” “Insist. Insist.” “Control your emotions.” There is real danger. Joe is failing. Joe fails.
Joe fails despite his knowledge of the escape. He fails because he is not strong enough. Mike knows this and immediately helps him. “You knew the escape,” Mike tells Joe in a statement of simple fact. He asks Joe why he failed. Exhaustion is Joe’s answer. Mike tells Joe a simple hard truth. Put exhaustion on your opponent. You do not become exhausted. This is the plot of the film as a series of conspiracies attempt to exhaust, reduce and own Mike.
Redbelt reminds me of the 12 labors of Hercules. In Greek Mythology Hercules, to find truth and enlightenment, is given ten labors ranging from slaying the Nemean lion to cleaning the Augean stables in a single day. Hercules receives assistance breaking a rule, so he is given two more labors. Here are Mike Terry’s twelve labors:
- Joe’s fighting failure reflects on Mike’s teaching creating an obligation Mike sees and understands.
- A woman, a stranger, accidentally attempts to kill Joe and shatters the dojo’s window adding to existing financial stress – Mike is broke.
- The same woman damages Mike’s truck, creating more financial stress.
- Mike discovers Joe the cop was not paid when working for his brother in-law’s club. He took the job on Mike’s recommendation. Mike feels obligated to pay Joe despite the dishonorable behavior of his brother in-law.
- Mike saves an unaccompanied (no body guard) famous actor (Tim Allen who is very good in his small role) in bar fight at his brother in-law’s bar.
- When Mike is given a Rolex from the actor as a thank-you he gives the watch to Joe as payment for his family’s unpaid debt.
- Mike is offered “producer” status on the actor’s movie.. Mike believes in this offer, but it is a scam set to increase Mike’s financial pressure.
- Mike’s wife borrows $30,000 from a loan shark to fill a phantom order from the actor’s wife for fabric. Financial pressure is almost at a tipping point.
- Joe the cop is suspended after attempting to pawn the actor’s stolen watch after Mike gives it to him to pay his family's debt
- Joe kills himself stripping his window of his pension. Mike accepts the window’s request for help as an obligation. He agrees to fight
- Joe discovers the fight’s gimmick, a “handicap based on a seemingly random drawing of a black marble, is a way of fixing fights so gamblers make money.
- Mike fights his other brother in-law, a sleazy mixed martial arts champion, in an impromptu “real” fight where he dies a little before finding the escape, the one that is always there.
Mike’s last three tasks are about death. This is true in the Greek myth too. First Joe the cop kills himself. Mamet regular Joe Mantegna (excellent as always as a sleazy producer) says, “everybody dies” in a sing songy con man voice only Mantegna has sending chills down everyone’s back. Next Joe discovers that, like much of life, his fight is rigged. Gamblers stole Mike’s intellectual property (drawing a black marble create a “handicap”) so they can “fix” fights legally. Finally Mike fights a “real” impromptu fight with his other brother in-law, a Mixed Martial Arts champion.
Mike dies a little in the final fight. On the edge of passing out he sees his mentor and finds the escape. He insists on the move. Mike’s redemptive honor may seem small compared to ever-present sleaze and betrayal, but it miraculously exits. We are left not redeemed as much as hopeful. We see life is a series of Herculean labors. Small moments of enlightenment, usually at the end of difficult and confusing labors, do miraculously exist. Redbelt is a small moment of enlightenment, a small miracle that is probably on its way to DVD quickly. Go as soon as you can or rent it later. Honor is important. Miracles happen. Enlightenment is possible.
I read a lot of reviews after seeing the film. Most reviewers seemed to have watched a different film. The best review is Mark Rahner’s excellent Redbelt review in the Seattle times:
Everyone is corrupt in the world Mamet depicts (or documents), except for the scarce few whose honorable behavior only makes their lives harder. Mamet's statement — that integrity in a culture where everything and everyone has a price is lonely-to-suicidal — isn't subtle, but it's well-illustrated.Rahner’s review hopes Redbelt will not be lost as Spartan was. Spartan is one of my ten all-time favorite movies. If you haven’t seen Spartan rent it and see if you agree that Mamet’s Spartan is another moment of enlightenment.
Read more movie reviews at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I went to Vassar with the son of the great jazz writer and then Village Voice Music Editor Nat Hentoff. Mr. Hentoff published The Jazz Life two years before his son came to Vassar in my senior year. Nat came to Poughkeepsie frequently. Sharp as a tack, eloquent and the only non-musician to win an NEA medal as a Jazz Master, Mr. Hentoff has forgotten more about jazz than I will ever know. I am channeling this memory because of an amazing comment shared on ScentTrail and Digg last night by fellow Texan Allen:
"While I was in school in England in 1986, Miles came to London's Wembley Conference Centre for two concerts. I couldn't get anyone to buy the expensive ticket and make the long trip to London, so I went by myself.That is an amazing moment and great writing. Felt like I was sitting with Allen hearing Miles play a ten minute muted solo just for me. Wow, that is the hand of God or something. Allen's comment about how the blues takes one person's pain incorporates it into music to produce complex joy literally sent chills down my spine. This may be the best definition of the blues I've ever read. Allen, you will be my friend forever and THANK YOU for sharing this Miles moment and a slice of your brain.
It came as a disappointment that the overall show was the weakest of the several I had seen from Miles over the years. He played brief and fragmented solos, it was amply apparent why guitarist Gareth Webber had such a short tenure with the band, the sound system was harsh, saxophonist Bob Berg seemed uninspired and just running scales, and the late afternoon concert seemed to find everyone (audience included) saving their energy for the second concert later that evening. The songs that day all seemed up-tempo, loud, overly rehearsed, and somehow unbalanced.
My seat was far up in the balcony in the "poor student" section. Since I came to the concert alone, I figured there would be no one to answer to if I snuck up to the front row for the encore. As the audience applauded for the last number of the regular set, I made my way down the stairs and furtively dodged the security guards to stand near the back corner of the very long rectangular stage. I saw everything from an obscure side view, and since I could see so few people, I knew that that few people could see me.
The band returned to the stage for the expected encore. For the first time that day, Miles counted off a slow blues. Miles, with his portable microphone, began prowling the stage while keyboardist Adam Holzman established the mood. Rather than wandering aimlessly as he usually does, Miles made a relatively straight line right to the edge of the stage. There is no way he could have seen me crouching there in the darkness, freezing into position the closer he came. Miles stopped at the very border, leaned way over to position the bell of his trumpet only a few feet from my face, and played a slow, muted, beautifully structured, and achingly personal solo. I wasn't looking at my watch, but he must have played without interruption for at least ten minutes. I was behind the level of the speakers, so I could hear his sound coming straight from his muted trumpet before I could hear it echoing around the hall from the electronics.
Miles' eyes were hidden behind his stylish shades, so I couldn't tell if he could see me. I wasn't aware of his spotlight bleeding over onto me, but it probably was. Whether or not he could see me, it is clear that Miles has a rare sixth sense, and I am absolutely sure that he could sense me there. I was radiating some kind of powerful emotion that I have never felt before or since, so strong that my less fortunate seat-mates in the balcony could probably detect it.
When his solo was over, Miles sniffed and brought his hand up to his face with a quick gesture before turning away. We both knew what it really was--it was his salute, his personal farewell after this stunning gift to his greatest fan. Miles had given me much over the years, and what elated me the most was knowing that I was able to give something small back to him. If the blues is about taking one person's pain and by the alchemy of music transforming it into someone else's complex joy, then the very essence of that exchange happened there on that gloomy London afternoon."
Read Seeing Miles the riff that prompted Allen's comment. If you have a Miles Memory please share too.
Read more about Miles Davis at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I failed French in my junior year at Choate. I failed French because Jesse Couisnard des Closette (his real name) hated me. Looking back on it there were many dimensions to his hatred. Jesse was jealous. For a Frenchman anything to do with love and sex creates the most rabid kind of hate. Jesse was fat. He was always out of breath and sweating. His beret, yes he wore a beret in cased you missed the whole French thing, was soiled always damp. During class he would flop the beret on his desk. It looked like a wet rag. As soon as class was over he would slide a still wet beret back in place hiding a growing bald spot.
I innocently spent a lot of time with the man's wife. She was my tutor. I couldn't speak French. She couldn't speak Texan. There was still plenty of high plains drifter in my voice. I'd spent three years being socialized by preppies before failing French. I didn't wear pointed boots or cowboy hats anymore. My Texas drawl died after six months in Greenwich. Having classmates laugh when I opened my mouth killed the accent. When it came time to speak French you could hear Texas elementary education in my flat uninspired tones. French is about rolling r's and j's. What they wanted me to do with my tongue just seemed unnatural and ostentatious. I would have pronounced that word Austentaytious back in the pointy toe boots days. Actually, ostentatious is a Connecticut word. If my friends in Dallas heard such a word come out of my mouth they would beat me up on principle. Texas was about making things simple cutting to the bone. Connecticut was about layering on adding as much as possible. Different countries and maybe different planets is how I think of it now.
I remember when a friend, Richard Bramlet, moved to New York and came back to Dallas. One day we were having a Pulp Fiction conversation while playing basketball in his driveway about the "little differences" between life in the east and life in Texas. What struck me most unbelievable was you didn't have to say "yes sir” and "yes mam" to all adults at all times in New York. I couldn't wrap my ten-year-old mind around a world of such chaos. Consequence was so sure and swift to such discourtesy in my Texas world that I knew Richard was making it up.
I failed French because Jesse was fat and old. There was never anything between his wife, a pretty petite American, and me. She was kind and supportive of my stumbling efforts to speak a language no Texan was meant to speak. Texans speak Spanish (DUH) for good reason. Jesse Couisnard des Closette hated the idea of me as much as who I was. There was no winning. I know this now because I apply my fifty-year-old mind to the problem. Then I kept trying to roll r's and exaggerate j's and v's.
Jesse enjoyed flunking me. The administrators at Choate didn't enjoy telling my family or me. They must have seen the hatred Jesse had for me. He didn't hide things well. Their call about my failure was almost apologetic. I didn't hear the apology then. I was in crisis. Life as I knew it was over. The "plan b" was to attend summer school at Brunswick, a day school in Greenwich, and take a test at the end of the summer back at Choate to test the work. That test would determine if I could return for senior year.
After this call, I walked across the street to Greenwich High and registered. Greenwich High felt different. Before Choate I went to Central Junior High. Moving from Central to Greenwich High would have been natural and unquestioned. Two years into a very different world and Greenwich High felt like an Albert Speer design. The ubiquitous institutional gray, large common rooms, pervasive lockers and constant noise even in the summer marked Greenwich High as a different place. The physical plant wasn't as spread out as Choate and there was three times as many students. I wasn't going to be in Kansas anymore if I didn't pass that test.
The funny thing is I probably couldn't flunk that test. I think Jesse's wife spoke to Mr. Maddox, Choate's Dean of Students. She told him the back-story. Showing up and signing my name meant I was back in. In Cool Hand Luke fashion, Jesse and I had a "Failure to communicate". That analogy makes me more rebellious and aware than I was, but anytime you get a chance to compare yourself to Paul Newman take it (is my advice). I passed French in my senior year with extra care and feeding and plenty of distance between Jesse and his wife. Mr. Maddox enrolled me at Rosemary Hall, a beautiful fifteen-minute walk through the woods from Choate. I remember the smell of pine trees as I walked up to Rosemary every Monday and Wednesday practicing rolling my r's and being as ostentatious as possible.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Greenwich Connecticut was a sleepy town in 1970. This is the year the Smith family loaded up the truck in Dallas, Texas and moved to the land of Topsiders, monogrammed button down oxford cloth shirts and just the right car, drink and life. When my dad's Lincoln Continental pulled into 65 Overlook Drive our neighbors must have thought the circus was in town. Not the circus, just the Smith family with our loving, good for not much, smart Springer Spaniel named "Friendly".
In 1970 Greenwich was a different town. It was sleepy and slow. There were no designer stores on Greenwich Avenue. Local merchants such as Bruce Park Sports, Greenwich Pharmacy and Garden Poultry Chicken were the order of the day. One day soon someone somewhere would wake up to realize every inch of space on Greenwich Avenue was worth millions, but this story takes place well before that realization changed the landscape so completely.
Garden Poultry Chicken was a tiny corner store. Two people could not fit through the front door at the same time. If someone was coming out and you were going in you had to flatten against the wall to let the customer out or back out of the store altogether. The smell of what has to be the best fried chicken ever cooked lived like an organic thing in that store. Sometime the smell was so strong it would hit you before you were even in the store. Once smelled the aroma was undeniable. The large Armenian purveyor's of Garden Poultry weren't cooks as much as fried chicken dealers.
Going to Greenwich Avenue and buying a cheap lunch from the Armenians at Garden Poultry was a treat on many levels. I could walk or ride my bike to Greenwich Avenue, so getting there didn't require parental involvement. This small step of independence was a BIG deal for a twelve year old. I usually had enough allowance left to buy a dime bag of chicken from Garden Poultry. This was a simple pleasure. The store was usually hot and crowded, so I would sit on the low stone wall in front of the church next door, eat the best chicken in the world and feel free and independent.
One day I walked to Greenwich Avenue just to eat Armenian fried chicken. There was a line several people deep. Each person in line would step up, the Armenian brothers would yell, confirm their order, wrap it in brown paper and off they would go. If this sounds like Chicago's famous Goat's Head Tavern made popular by John Belushi you have the idea. The Armenian brothers were not very nice, but no one cared. We wanted the chicken. We had to have the chicken.
On this day there was a line out the door. It took about fifteen minutes, but finally the line thinned. It was just me and the larger of the Armenian brothers. “Order,” the large hairy man shouted at me looking up from the counter. Before I could say my order I saw a flash out of the corner of my left eye. "Hey, Hey, stop, stop," the agitated Armenian screamed as he ran out the door. Then my brain processed the blur. That blur was Friendly, the recently transplanted Springer Spaniel.
Garden Poultry had racks of chicken from floor to ceiling. Just seconds before, my dog Friendly darted in, paid no attention to me (his owner), grabbed a chicken from one of the lower cooling racks and ran out the door. "Is that your dog?" the smaller Armenian demanded waiting for his brother's return. I had just enough time to practice my response in my head several times before confidently saying, "I've never seen that dog in my life." "One day, gonna catch dog," told me that this was not Friendly's first raid. I didn't see Friendly until I got home. My mother told me that Friendly didn't seem to be very hungry and might be sick. She was worried that Friendly wasn't adjusting well to his new home. I told my mother not to worry. These things take time. I remember my mother asking me why I was smiling. "Just thinking about Texas," was all I said while petting Friendly.
William Wegman's Weimaraners could give Friendly a run for his money. Wegman knows dogs are people too. He found his muse in his first Weimaraner named Man Ray. Wegman created some of the most fun serious art ever created. The pictures of his dogs speak to who we are and what it means to be human. Yes, I think Wegman knows the irony of the statement I just made. I had a chance to speak to Wegman several times while working with Janet McKean at Found Objects. We were wanteted a gift project to develop together. We never got past the talking stage, but Wegman was always friendly, interested and kind. He was never rushed. How often does a world famous artist express interest your ideas? Wegman was always open to suggestion and new things. Wegman was exactly like how you would imagine someone who creates such liberating and fun work should be, he was his art. I know Friendly and Man Ray are grabbing some chicken from a Garden Poultry store where ever they are now. Hope they are together and having fun.
See my favorite Annie Leibovitz photograph of Wegman and Man Ray.
Read more Dog stories at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I will never forget how excited Janet was that day. Her voice almost jumped through the phone as she told me about what just happened. Found Objects was beginning to get a reputation for cool gifts that used words.
Janet sold the first Magnetic Poetry Kits to friends who ran museum gift stores. Before we started Found Objects, Janet managed the gift shop at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Selling cool gifts back to friends who ran museum shops around the country was a natural. Janet was in New York preparing for the 1999 gift show.
Dave Kapell's kitchen invention (Magnetic Poetry Kit) was one of the "word gifts" Found Objects sold. We also sold work by Jenny Holzer and other artists who used words as their medium. Words were hot. The Internet was just starting to heat up. Gifts with words seemed to be everywhere.
Before Janet left for New York, we discussed other artists we should work with. Yoko Ono came up because, before marrying John Lennon, Yoko was (and is) a powerful conceptual artist. Yoko's use of words was a particular strength.
A famous early work invited patrons to climb a ladder. Once at the top of the 4 step ladder viewers were asked to used a magnifying glass to see a tiny "yes" printed on the ceiling. Another work printed the single word "fly" on a white piece of paper on top of a stepladder. Words and their strange hidden meanings is something Ono's art channeled and challenged.
Yoko's work is most commonly associated with the Fluxus art movement. Fluxus art is strong coffee born from Duchamp and Dada and not easy to understand. Yoko may be cultural icon, but we thought of her as a serious artist whose work we love. We wanted to talk to Yoko about creating gifts from her work.
We had no idea how to go about making that meeting happen. We searched our 6-degrees of separation connections. No one in our immediate group could get us an audience with Yoko. We tabled further conversations about Yoko until after the gift show, or so I thought.
Janet had been walking fast head down and on the phone with me. As she is explaining why we had to put working with Yoko on the back burner she turns a corner and knocks a small Asian woman to the ground. Like Yoko, Janet is tiny, but she sent this small woman reeling. Janet, after regaining her balance, bent down to offer her hand to a sprawled Yoko Ono.
Yoko, who has every right to be angry and upset, is worried about Janet.
Janet is fine and the only one standing (and if I know my ex laughing :). At first Janet is overwhelmed with serendipity. She can't speak. She quickly recovers as Yoko gets to her feet.
She explains that she was just talking about Yoko on the phone.
Janet could tell that statement worried Yoko. Janet explained she was staying at Jenny Holzer's apartment downtown and in New York for the gift show. She told Yoko about Found Objects' representing Jenny to museum stores around the world and that we wanted to speak with Yoko about similar projects.
Janet told Yoko she had just been talking about the idea to talk to Yoko with no idea how to reach her. Hearing Janet's story, Yoko was generous, kind and interested. She gave Janet her assistant's phone number and wished her well at the show.
We never figured out a gift project for Yoko, but that day in New York when Janet clobbered Yoko while talking about the idea of working with her amazing. Yoko was nice and generous. The moment's strange serendipity makes me wonder about how all moments are connected. "Yes" is probably all Yoko would say.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I met Annie Leibovitz at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago after several hours of book signing. This was in the old small building, so I can Google-ize the date to before 1996 (the opening of the new MCA building). Annie was spirited and easy to talk to for an icon. She had an incredible positive energy. The back story of why I was able to spend fifteen minutes with Annie is funny and ridiculous.
You may not think you know who Annie Leibovitz is, but you know her work. John Lennon curled up naked on top of a fully clothed Yoko on the cover of Rolling Stone is a Leibovitz photo. A naked painted Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair is a Leibovitz photo. Artist William Wegman cradling his favorite dog / subject Fay Ray is a Leibovitz photo. Annie's Wegman photo is my personal favorite of all Leibovitz photos.
Annie's camera sees into her subjects and her subjects are each and every one of us. That may sound like a funny statement considering Annie usually shoots stars and Hollywood royalty. Look hard at Annie's photos and you see truth and beauty.
My perception of Annie could be permanently altered by spending fifteen minutes getting to know her. Annie is kind, calm and giving. Janet McKean, the former Store Manager at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago, myself, an artist who worked for Janet named Zack and another MCA artist / clerk got to speak with Annie after her book signing. Annie was unhurried. Zack asked if he could take a picture of her. She said sure. Zack had a strange piece of rusted iron about six inches long with two parallel bars and a loop. "What's this," I remember Annie asking as she put the looped metal to her eye and peered out at Zack. Zack snapped ten pictures. It was strange and a testament to Annie's humble quiet personality that no one thought to hand Annie the camera. She enjoyed being subject and relaxed into that moment easily and with grace and courage. Going new places was something Annie did easily and well. I will never forget how gracious and giving she was. Everyone in this small group had time with Annie. She made sure to treat each of us as if we just came off a Rolling Stone shoot. Have you ever met a highly accomplished person who made you feel like you were the important one? This is what Annie did for each of us that day.
The ridiculous back story is the Art Institute of Chicago, the other older larger museum in Chicago, turned down the Leibovitz book signing. Seems the Art Institute didn't see such a signing as consistent with their charter. It wasn't so much the turn down as the snotty way they turned the event down. The Art Institute staff acted like Annie Leibovitz was beneath them. Kudos to my ex Janet McKean for snapping Annie up without a second thought. Janet created a great event. The little MCA had a line out around the block for the signing. Annie stayed until everyone in that line received a signed book. She spent a quality minute or two with each patron. She even stayed to sign another hundred or so books Janet was smart enough to order. The Art Institute's loss was Janet, the MCA and my gain.
I wouldn't trade those fifteen minutes with Annie. Right now sitting here writing this I wish I had a copy of Annie's book along with a copy of that picture Zack took with Annie holding rusted iron in front of her eye. Thanks Zack. Thanks Janet. Thanks Annie.
Read more about Annie, Janet and Zack at http://ScentTrail.blogspot.com.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
It was a cold early April in Southampton, New York thirty years ago. I was sitting in Martha Griffin's kitchen looking out the window. It was raining. The field behind Martha's house was knee high grass heavy from so much rain. Spring seemed a long way off at that moment. "You look cold," I remember Martha's mother saying as she handed me a cup of earl grey tea.
Martha's mother could channel me this way, actually she could channel men this way. She had an almost spooky ability to know what you wanted well before you did and have it at hand. I loved Martha's beautiful, elegant, permanently hip mother. That cold April day she was wearing knee high boots. Somehow, and this would go down as one of those many mysteries, Martha's mother was able to tuck her jeans inside skin tight leather boots. Add a floppy Irish sweater and glasses that would still be hip today and you can see why I was in love.
Martha had her mother's ability to channel me, but she wasn't as seamlessly graceful. You could still see the edges around Martha. She was apprentice to a great artist (her mother) and learning as fast as she could, but there may always be a gap. Martha was smart enough to be occasionally depressed as she recognized she might never catch up. Some things you are born with, some things you learn and some things you acquire. I understand now that Martha was willing to pay dearly to shorten the gap with her mother. I was her practice canvas, the one you throw away.
The most interesting thing about Martha's mother may have been her former Marine husband. Long Island working class hero, I loved Martha's father too. He owned a paint store in Southampton he inherited from his father. Sturdy, short and straightforward he was so different than Martha's mother. We would ride in the truck heading to the dump, even thirty years ago trash was a pain on Long Island. Most of the ride was silence. Every so often Martha's father would say something about a job or how an area had changed. There had been a lot of change during his life in Southampton. Martha's father knew I painted, so he shared stories about working for William De Kooning and Larry Rivers. These heroes to me where simply men and clients to Martha's father. I asked him if he knew Jackson Pollack. "My father sold him some paint once," was all he said. We rode the rest of the way to the dump in silence. That night I dreamed of a ballet of paint, a cold April Rhythm.
Wnat to paint like Jackson Pollack? That link will take you to a previous post where you can drip paint online like you were kneeling in the Springs next to the man himself.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
We were beat after a long day at the beach. I started the car. Shuffle songs filled the hot car with classic birth of the cool Miles Davis, a good choice. "I love the term 'bebop'," I said smiling to no reaction. She stared out the window not seeing the North Carolina coast. "What will we become," she said. Something was about to befall, a hard rain. "Before we begin this argument let's say begone, behold and believe," I said. "You don't make sense. You aren't going to use that 'we belong together' thing are you," she said bemused. I was beside myself. The old betrayal wouldn't go away. "Beloved is where we started, where we are and where we are going," I said. A heard a short laugh seeing the first smile of the day. "Watch the road," she said looking at me.
B Story Back story
I wanted to write a story just using words starting with "be." I tell the story two ways. First with traditional narrative (example above). The other, and more interesting, is single words played on a slide show viewer (example on the right).
B Story Widget
Miltos Manetas created the Pollack widget that is the hit of many blogs (76,000 downloads as of today). His widget is directly below this post or click on that link. I wanted to know more about the creator of such a funny, intelligent widget. Miltos is a talented painter. He reminds me of Alex Katz. This painting is titled Computer Cables 239. I like his cool clean (Katzian) lines and color choices. He combines flat surface and a restricted color palette with ever-present computers, cables and game gear to create a sense of isolation. Miltos moves Katz into our digital diaspora. If I had some free cash I would buy a couple of paintings from Miltos. Right now, I will have to settle for using his funny, free Pollack widget (below). Add it to your blog too. It is easy just click the button below the blank canvas. Great job Miltos. Thanks.
Other cool Manetas creations.
Create a Jackson Pollack digital masterpiece. Move your mouse over the white "canvas" to drip like "Jack The Dripper". Move faster and the lines get thinner. Stay still for blobs. Click your mouse to change color. Take a screen shot when you create the next great American painting since leaving ScentTrail wipes the canvas clean.
Read April Rhythm my riff on Jackson Pollack, Long Island and Martha Griffin.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
My father has one good eye. Macular Degeneration slowly burned up the "bad" eye. Last time I visited my father we went shopping. Cutter and Buck in Scottsdale is a trip. There are many hundred dollar golf shirts, polished teak and a hushed crowded store that reminded me of the Vassar library. I watched as my father drew a shirt or pair of pants up to his good eye cupping the bad one pushing his glasses up on his forehead. This pirouette required concentration. Head at the wrong angle and glasses would fall or he couldn't see the label's tiny type. This routine lasted for several hours. Cutter & Buck was having a sale, a rare enough event that it deserved concentration.
I don't golf (long story for another time). I headed to the leather high back chair by a round wooden table. Etymotic earplugs in and Miles Davis Workin' blocking the noise of Cutter and Buck's shoppers. An iPod can collapse space and time. Your head is in one galaxy while you sit in a high backed leather chair in another. Watching my father work diligently through every table I saw back to Scottish ancestors who dug coal in Kentucky hills. My father, an ex-Wallstreeter, was mining golf apparel, so no "black-lung" danger. He was mining with intense Scottish focus nonetheless. Duncan would move to a new table, cup bad eye, bring pants to good eye, move glasses to forehead, refine search find the best pair of pants on that table, fold the find under his arm and move to the next table.
My father's email about cataract surgery on his "one good eye" came earlier today. My first thought was of Henry the Fifth. Not sure what prompted this Shakespearian thought. I was probably thinking dad should see some ROI on such a large educational investment. Here is young Henry's speech to an English army outnumbered and out gunned by the French:
This day is called the feast of Crispian:God's speed dad. We happy few can't wait to hit Cutter & Buck again soon. I can say I fought with you on Saint Crispin's day in Scottsdale.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day