Legacy

My friend Michael loves jazz. He infected his son with the same passion for music. By the time Nick enrolled in Jack’s school, he was already an accomplished guitarist and now in his junior year, he regularly plays with several jazz bands and combos. Our friend Jeff, also a jazz lover, recently said to Michael, “Congratulations. You’ve created a jazz musician.… Now what?

When Jack was little, Patti and I, like most parents, collected and saved his artwork. We continue to encourage his creativity over the hump of the tween years, up to the present day. Along the way there were times I shared Jeff’s ambivalence, thinking to myself, “Are you just preparing him for life in a garret or working at a Starbucks full-time?”  I would hear the voice in my head chastising me for not preparing him for law school or medical school or Wall Street: “He’s a smart kid, he could be making a lot of money”. So when Jack decided that he wanted to focus on going to art college, I could feel the conflict rumbling in my tummy. I mean, there’s no question that I’ve always regretted the 10 or 15 years in which I didn’t create art. I wonder what my life would’ve been like had I gone to art school rather than studying political science.

But I knew deep in my heart that I could give Jack no better preparation in life than to let them know how important it is to follow your passion. I told him “most people are not passionate or talented in any particular way. You are a gifted artist and you love to make art. You are doubly lucky. It would be criminal to ignore those things to lead a life of mediocrity.” So I helped him to put his portfolio together and think about his application essays. We went to visit various art schools in the spring and I shared his anxiety over the weeks in which we were waiting for a decision.

He decided that RISD was his first choice. It was mine too, had been since I was 16 and I had attended the RISD summer program where I had the most extraordinary time of my young life, making art all day, living hundreds of miles away from my family, being surrounded by talented and creative friends, smelling of turpentine, and loving life.

I guess it’s a cliché: the father, frustrated in his youth, sending his son along the same path, like a mediocre football former high school player goading his son until he becomes a star quarterback. My own father was frustrated in the fact that he didn’t become a full-time artist, and, when I was in my 20s, he sort of encouraged me to take a different path, to study bookbinding or some such. Like most things my father said to me, I didn’t take it very seriously and so continued to go to the office every day.

I have learned so many things from art over the years, and I’ve learned it does not derail your destiny or condemn you to penury. Art is a constant in my life, even if I haven’t drawn a sausage for a month, informing how I see the world, how I think, how I feel. I can think of no greater legacy to leave my own son than to share in that wisdom and experience.

So I had no ambivalence last week, when Jack texted me excitedly at school to say that he’d been accepted into the class of 2016 at the Rhode Island School of Design. Instead, I felt enormously proud. And I felt, from some other plane, that Patti was sharing in my pride, because she too wanted Jack to follow his muse, to lead a creative life, but most of all to be happy. I think that in Providence he’ll be able to do all those things.

If a half-century of living on this sphere has taught me anything, it’s that regret is a waste of time, that one should seize every opportunity that comes one’s way, and that the fear of the unknown is just a one-way ticket into darkness. Fortunately, my son is braver than I am, less damaged, brighter, more confident in his abilities to change the world. He is my greatest work of art (though, of course I can’t claim all the credit).

Paradise Lost

Last Thursday, I got fed up and lost.
Jack and I started taking a class together at a prestigious art-class-taking-place and despite an initial enthusiasm for the undertaking, several things happened during the second class that reminded of all of the reasons I hate taking art classes and have since I was ten. As we walked out, an hour before the class ended, I said to Jack, “look, the three things I think you should get in art school are a) inspiration, ideas, and infectious passion from your fellow students, b) a teacher who gives you useful and specific direction and c) facilities that you could not duplicate at home. Tonight, we got none of the three.” I wished I’d spent the evening at home drawing in my journal instead.

What I didn’t go into with him was the sense of being lost that started to well up inside me. I suddenly realized that my general enthusiasm for art school — a Nirvana filled with printing presses and - studios and challenging assignments and benevolent mentors — might just turn out to be an expensive illusion that will fritter away the best years of my boy’s life.

What if he finds himself surrounded with nihilistic slackers and trust fund babies with no talent and loads of cynicism being carelessly fed pompous claptrap by failed conceptual bores with tenure and resentment for anyone with a naive enthusiasm for creativity in a shopworn environment filled with squeezed out tubes of drying oil paint and broken easels? Instead of bringing home arm loads of brilliant lithographs and watercolors and bronzes, Jack will slouch into our apartment with tattoos, pendulous pierced ear lobes, a ton of attitude and excuses, and a generally wasted education that produced little but a gaping divot in my bank account.
Hearing our fellow students provide lengthy and incomprehensible explanations of their poorly constructed constructions and randomly daubed canvases, explanations that were crude shadows of the sort of pompous nonsense that cultural critics have mocked since the Salon de Refuse, I was brought up short, thinking, “Shit, I’ve got to make sure he gets into a decent liberal arts college so at least he’ll have a chance to go to law school.”

Anyhow, a weekend of calmer reflection and a 6 a.m. train ride to Providence, Rhode Island calmed me down. Jack and I spent a glorious spring day touring RISD, and my fears receded. The school was filed with amazing painting studios, enormous print shops and woodshops, darkrooms and kilns and endless hallways filled with beautiful art. The students all seemed serious and passionate and ran around carrying canvases and arm loads of wood. The library was humming with studying brains. The students seemed like professionals in the making and I only saw one girl with blue hair.

I don’t know if Jack will end up going to RISD or Cooper Union or MIT or Harvard Law. But I sense in him the same sort of enthusiasm for art that I had, abandoned, and then regained. An enthusiasm that I didn’t get in school, but in spite of it. Jack has been long-marinated in art and I think he’ll always have creative juice in his marrow. Whatever he does with his education and his life, I know it will be interesting and worthwhile.

Today we are on our way to visit MICA, another creative hotspot. On Monday we’ll check out Bard for a different perspective.
My faith in higher education is stored but I still don’t know if I’ll be going to next Thursday night’s class.

I'm a Mac. I'm a PC.

author1I got my first Apple in 1983 or so, a IIC. From then on, I remained in the Apple lane, never even looking at PCs or Windows. Thanks to Photoshop and Final Cut, my ability to make just about anything on my computer expanded my creative world. Over the past quarter century, I have owned a dozen or so macs and macbooks and ipods and am responsible for the conversion of lots of my friends.
People who were not on board with Macs seemed unimaginative, conservative, clueless. The fact that they outnumbered me ten to one just confirmed my commitment. I had the same resistance to Blackberrys, until my company insisted I get one.
Maybe that Blackberry was Bill Gates’ foot in my door. Increasingly I realized that these days I do most things on-line. Sure, I use Photoshop some and edit the occasional video but the fact is I spend several hours a day on my computer and 90% of them involve the web and email. Oh, and my Blackberry has gotten me used to doing a lot of online things on the elevator, in bed, walking down the street.
Recently, the right fan on my two-year-old MacBook Pro conked out and it started making a lot of whirring noise. It also crashed quite often and the fact that I still have Tiger rather than Snow Leopard installed has become a limitation. This weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and start shopping for a new laptop. (Actually, it’s a bit laughable to call my MacBook a laptop; it is chained down to my desk by its external mouse, second keyboard, USB hub and two external backup drives. It’s been months since I was able to budge it.)
I started at the apple website, going through a shopping list of features. Okay, I want a nice fat drive, and a 3 Gig processor and extra ram and Applecare and… by the time I was done, I’d spent almost 3,500 hypothetical dollars to end up with something that seemed pretty much like what I had bought two years ago.
I wandered down to J&R electronics and looked through their wares. At first I though the prices were misprints — there were huge displays for a couple of hundred bucks, rows and rows of sleek, gleaming laptops for $600 or less. The newest thing in laptops is something small, simple and almost primitive — the netbook; no CD drive, no spinning hard drive, just a reasonable processor, a bright display, a full keyboard, and the ability to get online, all in a package that weighs a couple of pounds and is priced at roughly 1/10 of my dream MacBook.
Now there’s one obvious difference: Windows. I have always assumed that this ubiquitous operating system was ugly, confusing, non-responsive and really hard to set up (not to mention the status quo and domain of account executives, the military and Republicans). But I was willing to take the leap because I’d only be using the netbook to go online; I wouldnt even install email but do it through the browser.
I bought a navy blue Asus EEE for $375, brought it home, turned it on and with 90 seconds was connected to my Airport Express and online. I have shut down my trusty MacBook Pro to give it a well-deserved rest and will only turn it on to touch up scans and polish videos. Unless, of course, I discover I can do all that online as well.
I think I can make this transition because increasingly I have less of a relationship with my computer than with the places I go with it.
It’s more like a TV or a house phone, an appliance rather than a custom environment made just for me. I am more comfortable with being mainstream because the Internet allows me so many options. Soon enough, we will all live in the cloud of computing, where all of our files reside online and applications just appear when we need them. That’s fine with me.
I will let you know how my conversion goes…

Everyone has one…

prison1

In a masochistic fit, I have been reading the comments people have been making on YouTube about my commercials. People are so extreme. Some complain about the interest charges Chase put on their card, others link them to some fictional Nazi past, others cry or write paeans to actors playing minor roles. Some just dispute the commercial’s claim:

“This commerical suck balls no atm in the world that quick what a bunch of liers “

Some just plain hate my client:

Chase is an enemy institution that every town should vandalize with bricks and spray cans.

The most recent frenzy has been around the fact that I had Peter Murphy of the band Bauhaus cover “Instant Karma” by John Lennon.This strikes people as a betrayal on about six dimensions and they have filled five pages of comments on YouTube.

“Oh, come on, Pete, are you really that strapped for cash? “

“i could imagine Peter appearing on that commercial as a cute dolphin [sic] to the sea.”

“I hate this song, initially sounds like he’s trying to squeeze one out…”OOOONNNN and OOOOOONNNN and OOOONNNN”

“I owe chase $600.00. I love this commercial so I might consider paying them back.”

“Brilliant! … Nice to see such esoteric luminous creative for a freaking bank commercial. It’s about time things were bumped up a notch!”

I just like the song, and I like Bauhaus, so I am a bit mystified by the fuss. But then,  I’m just an ad guy.

Another phenomenon is when people who are involved with some aspect of the commercial, adopt it as their own. For instance, people who like one of the actors or in, one case, a dog, who appears in the spot.

There’s grumbling though, even among the fans:

“dangerous!!!! Chase is encouraging young people to break the laws and run a muck!!!:

Sometimes the reaction is positive. Like, in this case, when a song I used in a  spot became a pretty big hit and “100 Years” by Five for Fighting was back on the charts.

dude can u plz tell me the name of this song ive been lookin for it for like 2 years now -.-…

“i love this song. it’s soooo amazing. i want it played at my wedding.”

Sometimes there are a lot of positive scomments, like the ones for this mawkish spot I did a few years ago.

“This is like one of the most touching commercials I’ve seen to date. Wow, I’m sold! The power of commercials cannot be underestimated!”

Then there’s the really fantastic post where someone took one of my commercials and endeavored to prove that it was seeded with hidden swastikas, proving that Chase was trying to bring back the Third Reich. I kid you not.

If they make fascism look warm and fuzzy who wouldn’t want it?

its great to know others notice the obvious swastika in the Chase logo. The fact that they even shift the logo to show the swastika shows that they are trying to get us sheeple to get used to the logo again.

Yeah and Kermit the frog is a alien transported to brainwash us all. Damn dude take your medication, I dont give a damn about Chase but that is about the strangest connection Ive ever heard.

And one final spot from

a scum sucking rat turd.

I love the Internet! (This post is for my pal, Richard Hall)