Archive

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Farewell, Lou Reed, and love for black angels.

November 11th, 2013 2 comments
Lou Reed and friends. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground.

I managed to scrape up my remaining scraps from my teenage rock wall of long ago. Some clippings were a bit wrinkled. I guess that’s fitting.

It was posted on my friend Karl’s facebook page on October 27th:

He was lucky to have lived as long as he did.

“Who?” I wondered, and I started to get a sick feeling. I scrolled down the page, and when the news was revealed, I just couldn’t believe it. Lou Reed.

Earlier this year, when I read the message to his fans from his wife, Laurie Anderson, I was filled with a sense of happiness. She was thanking everyone for the love and prayers as they fought through his illness. At the time, it looked as though he would make it–or that at least he would be granted a little more time–and I suppose he was.

From The New York Times:

He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him.

Dr. Charles Miller, Mr. Reed’s liver transplant doctor, said.

Lou Reed was 71.

I didn’t expect that his death would hit me as much as it did. It wasn’t as though I knew him, and I fully realize the absurdness to think that we are somehow “connected”. But then again, aren’t we all?

As a sullen and mostly awkward 80s teenager, I was highly drawn to an edgier side of rock n’ roll; putting people like Lou Reed, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop at the top of my list. I was convinced that they had come through their own versions of youthful angst and ennui by boldly trailblazing through everything that was trite and typically successful by societal standards. They did what they wanted to do, and were who they wanted to be, and thumbed their noses (or worse) at anyone who questioned it. They were fearless artists… heroes. They still are.

I was spellbound by the album The Velvet Underground and Nico with tunes like Heroin, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and what I still believe to be a masterpiece; The Black Angel’s Death Song.

I can’t find much to explain the meaning behind the lyrics of The Black Angel’s Death Song, let alone anything from Lou Reed, who was not especially known for being one to explain his lyrics–his poetry… his music. I read somewhere (sorry, but I was unable to find or cite an exact quote) that he said that the lyrics to the song are meaningless, and that he just thought the words sounded cool strung together. Which rather sounds like one of his bogus responses to some journalist that he didn’t like (there weren’t many that he did). Even as I think of myself as a journalist of sorts, I understood his general disdain for them. I think when he was on the rise, it was especially trying for someone like him. He just wanted to make art in the way that felt right to him without having to explain it. Many of the questions asked of him at the time were inane and simple; designed to treat him as a spectacle or a curiosity—likely due to the topics he chose to write and sing about. But to much of the press, the art was incidental; and really, what artist wouldn’t be pissed off by such a disingenuous approach to storytelling?

Returning to The Black Angel’s Death Song. The lyrics are sad and beautiful at times; harsh and gritty at others. There is a rapid, desperate sort of cadence in the delivery of the lyrics, accompanied by an almost upbeat, but frantically manic and clearly dissonant gypsy-style violin melody. Add to that, the intermittent sound of the air hose–which rather sounds like a fuse being lit–and you have yourself one hell of song, akin to a race against time. (And isn’t that how life feels sometimes?) There are several things going on here:

(second verse)

Not a ghost bloodied country
All covered with sleep
Where the black angel did weep
Not an old city street in the east
Gone to choose

With the sadness, there is compassion. There is empathy for the angel, as we note that the angel; indeed, feels sympathy and perhaps regret or sorrow.

Also, this is clearly a song about choices. The combination of the words, “choices”, “choice”, and “choose” is used throughout the song. The word appears in one of the forms, no less than fifteen times.

(sixth verse)

Cut mouth bleeding razor’s
Forgetting the pain
Antiseptic remains cool goodbye
So you fly
To the cozy brown snow of the east
Gone to choose, choose again

This seems to reflect the pain of loss–perhaps lost love that at times in life, is next to impossible to digest or make sense of. “Antiseptic remains” may refer to numbness wearing off. “So you fly to the cozy brown snow of the east…” something familiar which may offer some comfort, yet when one feels hopelessly sick, there is no solace or comfort to be found; i.e., there is nothing cozy about brown snow… which may well be a drug reference.

(ninth verse)

And if Epiphany’s terror reduced you to shame
Have your head bobbed and weaved
Choose a side to be on

Perhaps this speaks to a realization that things were not as they seemed–which can be a death of sorts. “Bob and weave” is a boxing reference. They are also hairstyles. Resentment about a decision that was made–or that someone failed to make–led to a match of wills. Here, he jests sarcastically.

(tenth verse)

If you choose, if you choose, try to lose
For the loss of remain come and start

(final verse)

Start the game
I chi chi
Chi chi I
Chi chi chi
Ka ta koh
Choose to choose
Choose to lose
Choose to go

Sometimes life is a game, and therefore, so is death–perhaps they are one and the same. We experience small deaths and rebirths throughout life. This seems to speak to the notion that in the game of life,  indeed, we sometimes cut our losses; i.e., “Choose to lose,” or walk away. And then we start all over again.

To thine own self, be true.

— William Shakespeare (spoken by Polonius in Hamlet; Act 1 scene 3)

Lou Reed was no apologist, and he was true to his nature. He was regarded as difficult by more than a few (and that might be putting it kindly), and his general success in terms of his popularity sometimes suffered as a result. I’m guessing that he wasn’t too bothered about it. I think he felt he made the connection he needed to make with the people that mattered to him. At least that’s what I’d like to think. And that’s a fine legacy.

There are few artists that have knocked me over on a first listen. Lou Reed had that effect on me as a kid. I was blown away by Walk on the Wild Side, which was likely the first tune of his that I heard, and from there I was hooked. He was a brilliant storyteller, and from the time I was old enough to listen to the lyrics of songs, I was enthralled with their ability to impact, and take me somewhere else. Of course, I didn’t understand much of what he was talking about at the time, but somehow I knew it was raw and daring… and funny. I was beyond excited to put the needle on my Transformer record for the first time.

His album, New York had a similar effect on me, and I instantly fell in love with Romeo Had Juliet and all the tracks that followed. Its energy was every bit as raw and fresh as his other great works, and the honesty and emotion in his words gripped me. The stories were bitter and filled with love and resentment, as if to say, “Wake up.” Last Great American Whale really says it–a ballad that is grim, majestic and beautiful. The message is pretty simple:  “It’s time to give a shit.”

I only had the chance to see him perform live once–which was during his New York tour. It was a great, energetic show; and from what I could tell, he loved his fans–his people. Maybe we were lucky that night because he wasn’t  particularly known for his warm fuzziness. Or maybe that was just how I received it. He smiled a few times, maybe even told a joke or two, and performed plenty of old songs as well as all the songs from the New York album. Everybody left smiling. It was perfect.

Incidentally, that was how I wanted this piece to be–so it took me a while to get it out. And obviously, much of it is conjecture. But then, plenty of stuff that he did wasn’t perfect. He did it anyway.

Thanks, Lou.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

On becoming a Creative Beast: It’s a bit like death and dying. And then truly living.

October 8th, 2011 2 comments

There are two ways you can push yourself to get what you want:

The first is centered around breaking unhealthy patterns. This requires awareness, focus and discipline. It takes practice. It takes catching yourself every time you’re about to do that thing that keeps you from getting closer to where you need to be. It takes preparation, which will allow you to be proactive instead of reactive. It will give you the strength to remain calm and steady at the helm when a storm approaches. It takes meditation.

The second involves going one more step every time that you think you can’t do it. This sounds simple, and in a way–it is. This is where faith enters the picture, and where fear exits. Believe you will succeed. Then make it so.

These two forces oppose one another, spar, dance–and then, when the moment is right–make perfect love. They are the yin and the yang. They form muscle. They produce brilliant, magical children–or inventions. They create alchemy.

There is a third part to this equation, and that is the pursuit of something better. It helps to remember that at the end of every day, it comes down to you. As my friend Hugh MacLeod says, “Remember who you really are.” And as William Shakespeare said, “To thine own self, be true.” Once again, these words sound quite simple on the surface, but dig deep, and you will come to see that their wisdom is boundless. Becoming self-actualized is rewarding and empowering. That said, in the first story of Spider-Man (go ahead and laugh–but it’s a great story ;)), he learns what turns out to be his greatest life lesson: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Every day we are faced with opportunities to make choices. We are presented with options. There are plenty of things we can do–but either way–our choices are beholden to the laws of causality, also known as “cause and effect.” What you choose to do can mean the difference between finding peace and creating harmony or unleashing demons and wreaking havoc. Every choice serves something. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Only you can determine for yourself whether the choice you make is right or wrong–but at the end of the day, you will know the truth.

So how is finding oneself like dying and living? Giving up the old ways can be hard, and as we say goodbye, their is a loss that we must recognize and come to terms with. But this death is good, and it and makes way for a new life… a better one. Embrace it, and fear not. SEIZE THE PREY.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Love, Inspiration and Why We Create. Happy Valentine’s Day.

February 14th, 2011 2 comments

Yes, Creative Beasts, today is Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. Are you feeling it? I hope so.

What is love? It’s a feeling so powerful, that it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around it. While we may not truly understand it, we instinctively know that it is good. It can change things, and it can move mountains.

The word inspiration, literally means, “taking in the spirit.” When love’s arrow strikes our hearts, we are gifted with a new energy, and perhaps an altruistic vision that frees us to be brave and expand our horizons–and maybe even improve the world, if only just a little bit. Make no mistake that as confusing and even confounding as it may seem, at times–it is always a gift.

As humans–and as Creative Beasts–we are vulnerable creatures, and yet as Creative Beasts–we are already familiar with the concept of baring our souls. That’s just what we do. It comes with the territory, it’s part of the job description, etc., etc. When it comes to matters of the heart, however, we tend to get better at armoring ourselves as time goes on. How does this affect us and what we do? I think that generally, it’s fair to say that our work becomes more refined and better crafted because of practice, wisdom and dedication, and yet think of how much gets lost when edges become worn, in terms of our ability to feel. Whatever shape or form your creativity takes, part of its magic comes from a raw power–and part of that raw power is love. If you have it in your life, it is a very good thing. Be grateful. Recognize it. Use it. Respect it. Its energy will move you forward.

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

– William Blake

Happy Valentine’s Day. SEIZE THE PREY.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Creativity, Work and Community: Feeding the Need.

February 4th, 2011 3 comments


A Russian friend of mine once told me, “There is saying in Russian: ‘It’s better to have a hundred friends than a hundred dollars.'” Words to live by, perhaps? While it never hurts to have a hundred dollars in one’s pocket, having a strong community of friends is something that is difficult to put a price tag on. It’s amazing how it often seems to go, that when you give a little, you get a lot.

Thursday, I had the serendipitous fortune of running into some dear friends at the local cafe. We shared great conversations that gave me fresh ideas on approach, and left me feeling inspired and energized. That’s what I would call a good day. It’s what I would also call “invaluable.”

First, was coffee with Stanley–an old friend who was once a photographer, now a painter–always an artist. We talked about the struggles and challenges that creative types face, and how communities come into play. Artists and creative thinkers of all kinds are typically afflicted in some way, with both a need to create, and the standard animal will to survive. The need to create, or to transcend our existence as we know it, can lead us to all sorts of places. Some are dark and deep, some are thoughtful and fresh, some maddening, and others, though more rare, are brilliantly spectacular and enlightening. In many instances, creative journeys are solo ones, and thereby lonely. You work at your craft, whether it’s painting, writing, making music or developing theories. Sometimes you hate it. Sometimes you don’t know why you do it. Other times it thrills you. And feedback can equally be a bitch. Something–anything, at times–is rewarding. Someone can say, “Man, you suck. Give it up!” And maybe you’ve been waiting so long for any kind of commentary, that even that can evoke a feeling of gratitude.

“Wow. That guy hates me,” you think. …Cool!”

Stan and I talked about the varying value of different communities. What is a community? “Sharing, participation and fellowship” is one definition. For some, that can exist at the local tavern, but then that begs the question, “What is it that ties folks together?” Hopefully, it isn’t alcohol, though in some instances, that is clearly the case. With creative minds, I believe it is the underlying knowledge that we all struggle with a similar form of craziness, and part of that is the need to create. From time to time, this may actually end up surfacing as a clinical diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, A.D.D. or obsessive compulsive disorder. Interestingly enough, these so-called disorders are generally regarded as problems that need to be corrected. And yet, isn’t it interesting that many of the world’s most gifted–and frequently celebrated people–are in some senses, and for all intents and purposes–a little bit crazy? So what’s their secret? Stanley and I agreed that mostly, it’s work. Blood sweat and tears. Hours and hours of working one’s craft (which, by the way, is one way in which O.C.D. can come in handy). Work is the difference between the ones who break through to reach a certain level of alchemy, and everybody else. Van Gogh, Picasso, Einstein and Edison all approached their work with a manic level of intensity. Stan said that the value in having the chance to do the work you want to–or maybe that you were meant to, in life–is golden, compared to having a bunch of stuff, such as four car garages, lawns to mow and more TVs than you know what to do with. So it’s mostly work, and maybe after all the time you’ve spent preparing for some moment to arrive–a little bit of luck–and then there’s friends… community.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
– Thomas Alva Edison

So what happens to the others that take a less obsessive approach? All kinds of things–and sometimes–nothing. Some join into the corporate dynamic and make that world work. Fantastic. Some flop around like fish without water, going this way and that. Some cling to the bar community because it helps them to feel more… normal. Some find a way to neatly blend different worlds, which is remarkable. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the balancing act is usually rather precarious, and hey, finding one’s groove can take time.

When Stan and I parted ways, I was on my way out the door, when someone called my name. I turned to the table I had nearly passed. It was my dear, long-time friend, Fred; a graphic designer, artist and wordsmith. He beckoned me to sit and chat, and it was then that I decided that this day was meant for creative friends and conversations, so I did. He started by asking me what was up, and where had I been… usual ice breakers. I said that I had been laying low, and then added–“Well… I’ve been sorta poor, lately.”

“What? You’ve been boring?” he asked, wide-eyed.

“Ha. No, I said, ‘poor.'”

“Oh, I thought you said, ‘boring!’ I’d rather have you be poor than boring,” he quipped with a grin.

That simple statement made my day. And it led me to decide that I will never again in my life, state that I am or have been poor. I may not have a hundred dollars in my pocket to flit, but my friends–my loved ones–my community–make me insanely wealthy. My humble and deepest gratitude to you all.

What else? Oh, yeah: SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. Febuary 7, 2011: I subscribe to http://GapingVoid.com/ to receive Hugh MacLeod’s daily cartoons via email, and this one, entitled, “The Hunger,” came in today:

http://bit.ly/gMkFOr

…I can’t help loving that it’s right in sync with my post, here, down to the very titles. Hugh has inspired me with his cartoons and words on countless occasions, and I am seriously excited to get my hands on his new book, Evil Plans, to be released February 17th, 2011. Congrats, Hugh!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

A New Year. A New Wave.

January 2nd, 2011 2 comments

Katsushika Hokusai - The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

I’ve never been very big on New Year’s Eve celebrations–that’s not to say that there haven’t been ones that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. My 2010 New Year’s Eve was quiet, reflective, and very low key. I spent the evening with a friend that I’ve known casually for a while–someone who until recently, I would have considered merely a friendly acquaintance. Recently, however, we’ve become close, and I have come to value our friendship. I call this friend, “Smiley.”

To provide a bit of backstory, 2010 has been a mixed bag for this Creative Beast, with some decent highs, and others that were… perhaps neither good nor bad. There were times that felt pretty bad, in all honesty, and they did set me back. Yet in hindsight, the simple knowledge that I was able to make it through these trials–some of which I wasn’t sure how I would get through–has led me to a better place. I surprised myself in more than one instance with my resourcefulness, my tenacity and my will–and when I managed to accomplish certain things on both a personal and a professional level simultaneously–I felt pretty good… albeit tired. My point in mentioning this, is not so much to toot my own horn, but to simply say that waves do come. Sometimes they can take us up, and other times, they can crush us. The best we can do is to prepare if possible, and then paddle like hell. Those who are able to maintain higher ground may consider themselves “fortunate,” or “blessed,” or whatever they want to call it. As for fishermen and Creative Beasts… ’tis a seafaring life–which sometimes resembles a monster, and other times, something extraordinarily glorious… which brings us back to the reasons that we do the things we do.

Smiley and I reconnected a couple of months ago by pure chance, at a hotel, of all places. I was coming out of a networking meeting, and he was working on a story in the lounge. I didn’t expect it, but we ended up chatting for a while. He was keen to bounce thoughts off of another writer, and I was pleasantly refreshed after an hour of interesting-but-standard shop talk. The script aside, he seemed to have a lot of fires going, which intrigued me. Everybody likes hot burners, and particularly during cold weather. Looking back, I think what was most compelling about Smiley, was the fire in his eyes. As we talked, we agreed that perhaps there would be an opportunity to collaborate on some ideas.

Time went on, and the more ground we covered, the more we realized our stories were rather aligned. We had each had our share of waves, both friendly and fierce. We agreed that it was good to have dreams and vision. All of these things brought us closer together, and at the same time, kept us somewhat reticent in ways. Still, I was inspired by our conversations.

New Year’s Eve, though quiet, reflective and low key, was also pensive, heavy and occasionally dark. And I was feeling funky to begin with. Somehow, roads were taken that led us off the gleeful, celebratory path–not that we were really on it in the first place. From setbacks to friends who had committed suicide, and from dislikes to disorders, we covered just about every cheery subject we could think of. By midnight, we were totally out of steam and in no mood for noisemakers or confetti; let alone, champagne. If ever there was a non-roll, we were on it. Smiley went on to say how much he couldn’t wait to move back east. I had very little left to say, except that if that was what he wanted, then he ought to make it so. Mostly, I was just tired, and thinking about having to go in to work the next day. We finished our nightcaps in what was ironically, yet another downtown hotel lounge. We parted ways with half smiles and a short good-bye, each of us somewhat apologetic about our moods.

So at this point, you might be wondering the reason for this post. Ha. The post is about waves, and how they keep coming. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. A wave is going to take you somewhere, and that place can, indeed, be good… even great.

When I got home I was emotionally spent. One of the things I’ve never liked about the occasion–the anticlimax–had hit me in the face. “To hell with New Year’s Eve,” I thought.

In the morning, when I got up to take a shower, I looked up at the reflection of my Hokusai poster in the bathroom mirror. Yes, the image has become ubiquitous. So what? It’s powerful. Suddenly, it hit me, and suddenly, I was inspired again. “Fight harder. Ride the wave. Come back better.” That’s what it’s about. Pretty simple.

Smiley, my friend… this post is for you, and I’m glad we’re friends. Keep at it, and keep smiling. One way or another, we’ll get there.

Happy New Year, Creative Beasts, and by all means, SEIZE THE PREY.

p.s. It feels appropriate to add the lyrics, here. Feel free to sing along… Slainte.

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/w/waterboys/fishermans+blues_20145298.html

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Terry Jones, Book Burning, Sticks and Stones, and a Few Thoughts on Faith and Creativity

September 8th, 2010 No comments

A brief note to Creative Beasts throughout the land: Apologies if you may be startled by the rather political nature of this post. It is unusual, but I felt this was a poignant example of how strange the world of creativity can be at times, and how faith in whatever shape or form–always plays a part.

This is a story about a Creative Beast that comes from the other side, and in fact, it is the first time I have used the term, “Creative Beast,” to carry such a dark and vile meaning. I believe I must create a new term. From this point, this sort shall be known as the Anti-Creative Beast.

Terry Jones is a little pastor who is making a big name for himself, it seems. He preaches from his parish, ironically named “The Dove World Outreach Center,” located in Gainesville, Florida. His big plan is to burn a pile of qurans on September 11, 2010, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST, and he is calling the event, “Burn A Koran Day.” As if we don’t already have enough happy memories from September 11, 2001 to last us well over a lifetime.

First, some thoughts on creativity: I must commend you, Mr. Jones. What a truly creative way to express your faith. Could there possibly be a better display of your undying love and commitment to your Lord, than with the burning of holy books of the Islamic faith? Do you think Jesus will be impressed? Maybe you’ll get a special set of gold-tipped wings or something… And just never you mind the part about forgiveness, or “Love thy neighbor,” or “Love thine enemy,” or “Turn the other cheek,” or “Do unto others…” or “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” Yeah, never mind that stuff, because you are doing your part to rid the world of “evil.” And it is perfectly evident that you are completely capable of making this judgment. So glad that you are in charge of deciding what is or is not “evil,” because God is probably really tired of having to make that call. Yes, it’s a fine job you’re doing, Terry Jones. March on, Christian soldier!

Now, for the sticks and stones: We all know the saying. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But the truth is that words can and do hurt, and evidently, the treatment of certain objects can hurt, too. On the other hand, what, pray tell, can be said of a person’s faith if indeed, it can be boiled down to a symbol, such as a book, shall we say? Things, by themselves, are just things. A book has no power unless we decide to give it power. And faith isn’t faith if it is so easily shaken.

Terry Jones does not strike me as a man of faith, but rather, as an opportunist. He is greedily using September 11th as a platform. He uses people to stroke his ego and to lift him up, and he uses his God to get at them. His tactics are every bit as wrong and twisted as any terrorist of any faith. Regardless, he seems to be set on his plans, no matter how great the cost may be to American soldiers and Americans in general. And right or wrong, Muslims seem to be working up to a retaliation.

QUESTIONS:

I believe in the value of the first amendment and that of our constitution. Terry Jones has every right to express himself. However, I am conflicted when it comes to one’s actions. If actions indirectly bring harm to others under the wing of the first amendment, then does it not become self-defeating? One could argue that we are not responsible for how others react to what we do… and I would argue that that is an obtuse and disingenuous perspective that lacks vision and forethought. Mr. Jones has been called out by U.S. Commander General David Petraeus, who stated that Jones’ plan could “endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort [in Afghanistan].” If his actions put our troops at risk, they put our citizens at risk. In other words, he could threaten our nation’s security. Is “could” the operative word, here? According to the law, his plan falls under the description of “peaceful” demonstration.

Perhaps his demonstration will serve a greater purpose, which may be to show how our decisions affect things exponentially. Could it help societies to learn that just as it does not serve Mr. Jones well to function insularly, the same is true for all nations? In theory, the best laws are designed to benefit everyone, not the few. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

My hope is always that faith and creativity will find better and more peaceful ways to be expressed by true Creative Beasts, and that one day, people will grow tired of living and dying by the sword. And, of course, that the next Creative Beasts post will be a bit cheerier. Until then, and as always–SEIZE THE PREY.

For an additional and insightful look at this topic, check out Tunku Varadarajan’s The Problem With Burning Korans from The Daily Beast. http://thebea.st/9a22lP

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Why Be Extraordinary?

May 28th, 2010 11 comments

Who knows what lurks at the dark edges of The Great Unknown?

Indeed, “Why be at all?” One might ask, as so many have. What is the point? What is the purpose? What makes an artist an artist, or an explorer an explorer, and why should anyone care? There are plenty who try to make the leap, but fail. They will never see an inkling of what they would perceive to be a valid level of success. An aside: the term, “artist,” for the purposes of this post, means “One who creates or envisions at a quintessential level.”

Does culture reflect art or does art reflect culture? This question was posed last week in my group at the Creativity Works event in Milwaukee. I think it’s both. How is culture developed? Try this on for size: There are people who unwittingly (and sometimes wittingly) stomp on the spirits of those trying to make something great out of nothing. Or, they laugh or jeer. Anything to eschew whatever comes across as different, strange–and extraordinary. It could be dangerous, after all… or risky. Yet, invariably, they are the same folks who will celebrate the accomplishments of those that they had formerly dismissed or ridiculed–as if it had been their idea, all along.

Here are the definitions from http://thefreedictionary.com/

cul·ture (klchr)

n.

1.

a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.

3.

a. Development of the intellect through training or education.
b. Enlightenment resulting from such training or education.
4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.
5. Special training and development: voice culture for singers and actors.
6. The cultivation of soil; tillage.
7. The breeding of animals or growing of plants, especially to produce improved stock.

8. Biology

a. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.
b. Such a growth or colony, as of bacteria.

tr.v. cul·tured, cul·tur·ing, cul·tures

1. To cultivate.

“Culture” is something nearly everyone wants to participate in, yet it is also something that only a few wish to work at or develop. Some cultures are random and shapeless, while others are hewn, forged and carefully defined.

Artists and entrepreneurs are often one in the same. Inventors and scientists–I believe, are, in many respects–artists on whole different level. They are pioneers and visionaries… and many times, they are outcasts and “crazy fools…” until they hit on something, and when that happens, so does culture, in a manner of speaking. It’s not an easy calling. To be an artist and to have a dream or a vision takes a commitment. Many sign up for film, music or art school–or medical school–only to find that it wasn’t the life that they had had in mind. There are no guarantees. The investment is costly, and the outlook on the ROI can appear very bleak. Because many times, it is. This is not something they tell you upon entering school. Afterward, many will teach or work in some related area while continuing to work on creative goals. Sometimes this works out well, and other times, not. We all need to find ways to survive, but finding the balance between work and creativity can be trying, frustrating, humbling and even crushing. Very few manage to obtain the opportunity to work solely as an artist–or to conduct research and experiments to their hearts’ content. Many will give up entirely and find something else that is easier. Fitting into a groove that someone else has already created is typically far easier than creating your own. Someone else has already taken the risks, the falls, etc. It’s not scary, and often, it’s pretty safe. Comfortable. For some, however, this prefabbed groove is not comfortable for some reason. It just never seems to fit quite right. We may even struggle and keep trying to fit into it, to finally come to the realization that it isn’t going to happen. It’s never going to fit. That is O.K. And that is the time at which we realize that to stand out–to rise to a higher plain–takes another kind of desire, attitude and level of commitment. The ones who push themselves to figure out how to cut an extra two or three hours out of each day–the ones who are willing to search and hunt and dig to find it–and who then take the extra effort it takes to put that extra pressure on that ugly little rock–are simply put–the ones who get the diamonds.

So why be extraordinary? Maybe the real question is, “Why not?” We get one shot at our time, here. Yes, it’s risky. Yes, it’s dangerous. And no, you don’t know how it will work out. Maybe the world is flat, and you’ll go sailing off the edge. And maybe you won’t. Who knows? The thing is… if not taking that chance to find out what could be–is killing you… then you already are extraordinary. The desire or even the need to put yourself out there, and to take risks–for everyone to see… your thoughts, your work, emotions and opinions–is not normal. Who gets up on a stage with no clothes on and says, “Hey, everybody! Look at me! What do you think??” Artists–entrepreneurs–Creative Beasts do. Regularly. It’s crazy. It’s brave. And it’s extraordinary.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Grab yourself a soapbox V2.0. And burn it up at Ungeeked.

May 10th, 2010 No comments

"Burn, Baby, Burn."

Hello, Creative Beasts! Anybody else out there burning a little midnight oil? Because let me tell y’all, there’s a disco inferno going on up in here (“burn the mutha down”). In my previous post, I addressed a recent article posted on Talent Zoo, again; entitled, Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye. Indeed, an incendiary title, to say the least. As Mark Fairbanks of Translator puts it, “The eye-popping title of the post led to a flurry of emotionally-charged user comments.” His poignant post, On Death and Dying: The five stages of post digital grief, in turn; finely illustrates the reality of the situation from the perspective of a creative leader who has walked through the fire and come out the other side… a transformation, you might say. Like many others, he has moved into the realm of digital creative.

I decided to do a second “Soapbox” post, because there is simply so much more that can be said about all of this. However. I promise to not go on ad nauseam, ad infinitum. My intention, for what it’s worth, is to further explore the subject of creativity and where and how it lives in our current culture, and to ask those who are creatively driven, what it is they seek from their careers. For example, what makes a copywriter want to be a copywriter, and what makes an art director want to be an art director? I think this is an interesting question that could be taken a step further by asking how many copywriters and/or art directors have a screenplay in the works, or are in a band? Is there a safety appeal in that these are jobs that allow artists to be artists, and yet they (sometimes) offer comfort and/or security in the form of a steady paycheck, insurance and hopefully a somewhat comfortable chair and a desk? For the artist, this can almost feel like a fun, sly, but legal way in which we get to pull one over on the corporate world. “Yeah, I’ve got a desk in a cube, but in my cube, I’m a rogue. I’m a rebel. Which is why you love me.” Uh, huh. Dreams aside, I think there are plenty who really love the problem of a concept and the building of a brand–and there are some who live for it. And you? How do you feel about the current winds of the industry? How have you been affected by digital/new/social media? What would you do differently if you were calling the shots? Or, if you are calling the shots, what steps have you taken to adapt to the new ways in which target groups are being reached? What’s your angle?

At any rate, Creativity is not on her death bed. In fact, she’s just getting started. Please join her.

“Get Up! And dance to the music!”

Embrace the new, and find a way to make it your own. Learn, grow and expand. Have fun. And heck, if it isn’t fun for you anymore, why die trying to fit your square self into that round hole? Keep those edges! Maybe you’ve always wanted to open a collector’s toy shop or become a beekeeper. Maybe now is the time to finish that screenplay. Speaking of learning, though, and in regards to all that’s happening in the worlds of digital and social media and should you want to learn more about it, Ye Olde Milwaukee is hosting a rather significant event designed for not only ad and marcomm geeks, but for entrepreneurs and CEOs of all sizes. The conference that is on its way to making history is Ungeeked Elite, brought to you by SOHO Biztube.

Happening this week from May 13th-15th, this will be one truly interactive event. The keynote speakers including New York Times bestsellers Sally Hogshead and Chris Brogan as well as Jason Falls, Olivier Blanchard, Scott Stratten, Phil Gerbyshak, Dan Schawbel, Visible Technologies and Hubspot will be offering a dialog-driven format, creating a talk-with-you-not-at-you environment. This will allow the experts to learn about followers’ needs as much as it will help newbies to get their feet wet. If you aren’t familiar with the above names, get to know them. Even if you become a beekeeper, you’ll be glad you did.

All right, Creative Beasts. That’s all she wrote for now, as this one needs its beauty sleep (truly). Go on and get yours. And until we meet again, SEIZE THE PREY. I leave you with the Trammps:

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Grab Yourself a Soapbox.

April 27th, 2010 1 comment

Madison Ave

In days of old in the world of advertising–many refer to it as “The Golden Age”–when major accounts were lost, heads rolled and the blood flowed down the glorious street known as “Madison Avenue.” Creatives and AEs alike commiserated over martinis that in weeks prior, would have served as lunch with the client. Oh, how the times have changed… Or have they?

Certain financial collapses in recent history knocked the wind out of many of the industry’s best and brightest, and that’s putting it mildly. But when the chips fell and after the dust settled, the light changed. Something was different… Or was it? Folks everywhere, from CEOs to CSRs and from CDs to JADs were talking. But it wasn’t over the phone or over lunch, or even via email. (O.K., well, yes; some of these things still do take place, thank god.) It was online via channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Texts. Tweets. Yelps. Etcetera. Communication changed. Mass communication–has changed. An aside, to many who may read this: it will seem akin to a brand new culinary student talking to Alain Ducasse about frying eggs. Hmmm. I am not a social media wizard by any stretch of the imagination. However, and as a writer, I do notice things from time to time.

That said, some things that haven’t changed in our world: creatives still bemoan their misfortune when they find themselves out of work… “But I DROVE that campaign. It was MY idea, MY design and/or MY COPY.” Or, “I’ve been kicked to the curb for some f***ing kid that designs hypertext links. He wouldn’t know a concept if it bit him in the f***ing ass. Do you know how many One Show Pencils I’ve won? I can tell you how many he’s won. That’s right. ZERO.” (See recent post at http://TalentZoo.com entitled, Advertising Agencies: Kiss Your Creative Teams Goodbye.)

Um… maybe it’s just me. Or maybe some of us have forgotten what it’s like to be hungry. It can hurt. A lot. But something else good can happen if you’re aware enough, scrappy enough, and once you’ve quit hanging your head between your knees. You get your edge back. Now, the truth for me is that I’m not where I’d like to be… just yet. On the other hand, I think there will always be a part of me that isn’t satisfied unless I’m dissatisfied. That is to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever be “Where I want to be.” I’ve heard some say that once you get to that place… the place that–before you got there–seemed so great–your perspective changes, and it wasn’t at all what you’d thought. Now, you want something else. Something better. I’ve also heard it said that getting fired makes you stronger. Tougher. If it doesn’t first drive you crazy… I wonder what Nirvana is like. I wonder if once you get there, you think, “Ehn,” …anyway.

This is the deal (and the part where I tell Chef Ducasse all about frying eggs):

Chef Ducasse

The landscape has changed. The world has changed. We are in a new era. Right now, the buzzwords are “social media…” “new media.” Oooh. Ahhh. Tomorrow they will be something newer. One thing that hasn’t changed? People. People still want to be wowed and excited and drawn in. They still want to be driven to ecstasy–and then held. In fact, maybe now, more than ever before. Frankly, so much (and I think many of you will agree, Creatives) in our world that lauds itself as “creative”–sucks. Maybe that’s why people are so bored and tired and are quite content in their own magical mini light-box worlds that fit in the palms of their hands. Maybe as a society and on the whole, we have become one great bunch of fat, lazy sods. Maybe I’m harsh. *sigh* Oh, well. But–my dear, sweet, lovely Creatives–and I mean this with all my heart–I know your pain. But I truly believe the answer does not lie in whacking the hypertext kid. Because The Man is, in effect, a junkie. He will find another hypertext kid. The trick, it would seem, is not even to try and figure out how to win back The Man. The trick is to figure out how to cut The Man out of the picture entirely. We’re talking Frank Lucas-style, Baby.

Frank Lucas, CEO Extraordinaire (a.k.a. American Gangster)

(O.K., well, maybe not quite that cold, and uh… illegal. But you get my meaning.) The trick, it would seem, is to become what some (Seth Godin) would call, a Linchpin. Relearn how to Fascinate (by Sally Hogshead). Or, as Hugh MacLeod would say, “Quality isn’t job one. Being totally f***ing amazing is job one.”

So, kids… Creative Beasts… have at it. Find a way. SEIZE THE PREY.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Feelin’ Nerdy.

March 26th, 2010 3 comments


Spring is in the air, here, in good ol’ Cream City, or as one of my nerdy pals likes to call it, “Old Milwaukee.” I think just for Ss & Gs, we should crank it up one more notch and call it, “Ye Olde Milwaukee.” Things always sound so much older when you put a “Ye” in the front, and an “E” after the “D.” Hells, yeah. Incidentally, there used to be a place down the road from me called, “Ye Olde Dinner Bell.” That place was so olde, I’m surprised I can even remember it. Ah, well. Seeing as how today is Friday, I thought I would have a little fun with Ye Olde Creative Beasts. Hunted for some viddies of some of the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) local TV ads ever made. I couldn’t find the Milwaukee ones I was hoping for (anybody got Doc’s Fine Jewelers?), but here are a few fun ones nevertheless, along with my 1-5 star rating:


3 Stars.


Pretty frickin’ awesome. 4 Stars.

And this guy… Rudy. How could you not buy a car from him? Or get a pap smear? He’s adorable!

Ciento por ciento, excellente. 5 stars.

Okay, well, that’s about all the time we have today, Creative Beasts. Go on and get your nerd on. Happy Spring, Via con Dios and/or SEIZE THE PREY.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post