Tuesday, August 26, 2008


This blog isn't a platform for my (non-partisan, independent) political views, so I'll preface this post with the note that I'm strictly highlighting great creative work here - not promoting the Republican party or their Convention in Minneapolis. That said, Campbell Mithun developed a greative creative effort, designed to encourage Twin Cities residents to be gracious hosts of Republican Convention visitors. While Minneapolis/St. Paul residents can see the posters around town, the rest of us can see it at theunconvention.com under the "Make an Effort" tab. A great visual and simple tagline gets the message across pretty clearly..."be nice, people."

That said, I also found it interesting how preconceived notions plague many of our opinions - even the most self-proclaimed, open-minded and non-judgemental among us. I suppose it's simply human nature. As Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" so convincingly proposed, we over time develop notions and ultimately make decisions based on very limited (and sometimes incorrect) observations - observations and prejudices that we're often unconscious of. Take, for instance, the notion of a Republican, as gently and amusingly depicted here. The other bar patrons drink beer, the Republican is awaited by a fancy schmany beverage. The beer guy serves the Republicans wine. Looks like Alex P. Keaton might still be the charicature that comes to most folks' minds when they conjure a Republican (and this great work is no exception to that mild stereotype).

Ah, stereotypes...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Taking the hip out of the hipster...

I love when I read a piece that reads like an observation you're made at some point, but - as most fleeting thoughts do - goes without deeper analysis.
is one of those articles.

I agree with the author that today's hipster collective is NOT about being counter-culture. It's become a social grouping (not a movement) based primarily on a shared aesthetic, or sense of style. I shudder at the realization that I'm about to use this term (I work in advertising), but it fits the bill - being classified as a hipster is about a "lifestyle", a look and a shared set of interests/ideals - that's why you usually find hipsters en masse at particular bars, concerts or gallery openings. Being a hipster doesn't carry the clout or validity that being a punk in the late 70's and early 80's did (though I'm sure they got s**t back then, too - hindsight is always 20/20) because it's not about social change, or rebellion. Given the broader acceptance in today's society - at least as compared to 20 or 40 years ago, and the existence of a profitable, valuable creative economy - there's little for hipsters to rebel against. Noone's censoring them, kicking them out of their parents' home for dreaming of art school instead of law school, denying them education, or forcing them into arranged marriages - so what is there to rebel against? And in terms of perception (the terms "obnoxious" and "predictable" have been tossed around), the youth of many hipsters - and the self-absorbed, self-seriousness that generally comes along with being young and having your self-identity depend on your peers' acceptance - certainly doesn't help.

Where I disagree with the author is on the notion that hipsters represent a notion or collective that past social/cultural groups have not. Could the same not have been said of the artistic counterculture of the 1960's - that so iconically embodied by Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol (muses to today's hipsters, no doubt). Did past journalists describe the mid-to-late punk scene as "vapid", "void" or "pointless"? I suspect people and journalists eventually grew as tired of the beautiful, hyperstylized tortured artists of the 50s and 60s - and of the punks of the 80s - as they're becoming of today's hipsters. Once the political or social repression that a movement erupted from dissolves, it all becomes less about questioning norms and more about style and aesthetics, no?

I'm tired of the hipster look, as well - and rather enjoy talking to someone with a similar interest in art, literature or music that can confidently rock an under-stylized, basic long-sleeve shirt and jeans, instead. Or *gasp* a dress without a hint of irony. But I think this has more to do with growing into yourself and no longer needing the uniformed approval of a social circle to define you - and less with "killing the hipster". Today's hipster, after all, is the greasy-haired, flannel-wearing grunge god of the early 90's - whom eventually got a gig at a start-up, made serious bank and dropped the Eddie Veder look.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Call to Arms

First off, this is a brilliantly wicked article - I nearly spit out my coffee in a few instances. Lanham's wit is commendable - Oscar Wilde would be proud. It would appear that the Gen X vs. Gen Y (errr, Millenials) debate shows no sign of aging, or media indifference - it just keeps getting coverage.

Two issues come to mind here - one is the Facebook "fairy" mishap, while the other is perceptions and misperceptions of Generations X and Y. On the Facebook mishap - it's a risk we all need to recognize. If you're going to post personal photos with no self-censorship - and not apply "limited profile" options to any colleagues you're connected to on Facebook - then any fibs and lies you tell might catch up with you. He lied to his boss to play hooky (something we've all done) - but his boss saw the photos he had publicly posted - and he was busted. That's an inherent risk in taking our lives public, to any degree, on the web; end of story. (And as an aside, I have to wonder - how trusted is this guy that his boss decided to fact-check his story on Facebook? Had this guy skipped out on work multiple other times, drawing suspicion? But I digress...)

The Gen X and Gen Y discussion is the more debatable (and, with tongue-in-cheek, combative) of the two. I agree that there are some broad attitudinal and even stylistic/aesthetic differences between the two Generations - particularly if you're considering what an Xer looked like in the 90's (grunge) vs. now (hipster). But I believe most of these differences have been sensationalized by the media (Radar and Time magazine articles included). I'm a Gen Xer, but on the border - I could easily straddle both Generations and share some of the key defining attitudes and traits of each. I work closely with both Xers and Yers, and do feel some of the dissonance between the two in terms of expectations, sense of merit and demand for instant recognition and responsibility. But to tell you the truth, I wonder if some of the older Gen Xers bitching about the Gen Yers had similar expectations and sense of what was "theirs" and due to them when they were younger - expectations that are based more on youthful, naive ideals common to most people growing up with opportunities and access to resources - and less on a unique insight into a generation magnified and sensationalized by the media.

I wonder if these arguably generational differences in expectations and entitlement have more to do with socio-economic class and the national economic climate. I'd guess that money - and the resources you're used to having access to -bear a stronger impact on what we think we can accomplish and deserve access to, than does the exact Generation we were born into. If you were born with resources and opportunities that money can buy (like a superior education or travel, for instance), chances are you might take those for granted and expect that they will always be at your disposal. More tellingly - does a Gen Yer from a higher-income family have the same set of expectations and sense of merit in the workplace than a Gen Yer from a middle or lower-income background? I'd also be interested to see the difference in household income/family wealth between a 21-year-old in 1993 and one in 2008. Just how much did that 21 year old have to take for granted then, vs. a 21-year old today?

I reserve some skepticism for anything that's hyped by the media - which is probably very characteristic of my Gen X-born self. The glorification of the differences between Gen X and Gen Y is included in that assessment. And so is anything depicted in "The Hills".

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Europeanization of the US

Much has been said about Gen Y's reluctance to sacrifice their personal lives to achieve career success. But with a declining competitive position in the Global economy and traditional, competitive corporate career paths being stripped of their formerly luxurious vermeer faster than an aging former Melrose Place actress, it feels as if a broader range of young US professionals (including Gen X) are "done" with the notion of making work and professional competition their priority (and strongest source of self-identity). Can anyone that worked 50+ hours a week at Goldman or a myriad of other investment banks possibly feel vindicated when the real estate crash has thrown their firm into bankruptcy - and negated the bonus they were counting on? Many young (or young at heart) professionals are growing jaded and instead setting their sites on a more traditionally European focus on quality of life - and looking into leaving their office gigs for more creative, lower paying, and less traditionally structured jobs. Some are even strongly considering moving to Europe altogether (which, ironically, seems to be Americanizing).

Is the US priming itself to enter into its own psuedo-Renaissance period - with a large wave of young professionals leaving their classic office jobs and instead taking up with a more creatively-focused (and lower paying) profession, pursuing their passions and taking more time to enjoy their personal lives? Are we looking at a busier Starbucks or local coffee shop on random afternoons - simply because it's nice out? More people working from home - or at least leaving the office at 5PM so they can make it in time to their Photography or Playwriting class? More cigarrettes being smoked to fuel our writing (and reading) more books, plays and scripts, taking (and selling) more photographs and attending more museums?

I certainly hope so. It's quarter to 2 on a Friday afternoon - I gotta run so I can wrap up and head out by 4PM to meet friends. And drink coffee. And wine. And take photographs outdoors. On a gorgeous Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Black Sheep

I've always found unconventional people fascinating - the common thread that seems to tie them (us) all together is some degree of irreverence and an ability to relish in the confounded looks that their opinions, behavior or attire evokes from people. A little black sheep (or at least grey) in a mob of white is a surprisingly comforting reminder that we're not all interested in following a common schedule or plan in life that we had little do with establishing.

Taking unconventionality to an extreme, perhaps the most amusing and studied of the bunch are true eccentrics - not just those that question and defy particular conventions (most of us do to some degree), but those individuals that commit to their eccentricity and oddball ways as more than just a "phase", but a lifestyle. Someone who only wears one color, head to toe, every day of their adult life. The ancient man (or Imelda Marcos) that leaves his fortune to his dog. Howard Hughes. Joan Crawford. Karl Lagerfeld. Michael Jackson.

Two common denominators among eccentrics seem to be money and age. Christopher Hitchens' article on British eccentrics in January's Vanity Fair arguably says it best; "true eccentricity requires some leisure time, and some money, for its cultivation". If you're rich or old enough to afford not needing to be industrious and work to maintain a lifestyle, it's easy to see yourself getting bored. And if you get bored, you easily get into trouble. You start to think too much. Question too much, observe too much. Perceive that everything and everyone around you feels mundane, and that you need to develop an identity. So you begin to dress only in yellow, talk to your dog or pet cow (the only being that truly understands and loves you for who you are). Arrive at public events dressed in a tutu (particularly impressive if you're a man), ride a crocodile bareback, or spend an inordinate amount of time observing clouds (see Vanity Fair article).

Eccentrics keep the world around them interesting (and interested) - particularly when it's a wealthy circle with time, expectations, norms, an implicit code of conduct, and few responsibilities in their hands. You rarely hear about poor or middle-class eccentrics. Instead, they're condemned as crazy, senile, or tacky. It's mostly only the rich (or onetime wealthy) that become eccentric. They have the luxury of time, resources and imagination - and use it very comically (and vainly) to avoid becoming the cliched old, rich man/woman - only to ironically become the cliched eccentric, old, rich man/woman. Only the context for the eccentricity itself seems to differ.

Cheers to the eccentric, bizarre, quirky and original that keep the world colorful and offbeat - but here's to hoping that they'll leave their money to a good, charitable cause and not to their pet parrot.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


If ever there was a muse for bloggers, I think Diablo Cody just might be it. A stripper and phone sex operator in a former life, she's now a noted Hollywood screenplay writer, working with the likes of Spielberg and Jason Reitman. So what formula does one follow to attempt to replicate this success? How much of it is wit and raw talent? Or a pre-destined alignment to be in the right place (online) at the right time? A colorful (and marketable) past that yielded some rich experiences ripe for writing and reading about? For all of these reasons - Diablo Cody, you're my hero.

"Success is a science - if you have the conditions, you get the result".
- Oscar Wilde