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Talk 2007

 

December 17, 2007

Limitations

I always thought it was unreasonable to expect someone at age 18 or 20 to know what they want to do for the rest of their life. How can you go to college and declare a major which will supposedly determine your future path at such a young age? And so I liked this, from director Tim Burton, in the January ’08 Esquire:

“I sometimes meet people who say, I’m going to be this or I’m going to be that. You feel kind of bad for them because they’re limiting themselves. It’s different from having an enthusiasm for something and seeing where life takes you. I feel lucky to never have planned to go into what I did. I always just said, ‘All I want to do is make things, whether it’s drawing or writing.’ If I’d said, ‘I’m going to be a director,’ it probably wouldn’t have happened.”

 

November 25, 2007

Family

I was in St. Louis for Thanksgiving, visiting my sister Tracy and brother-in-law Jim. My brother Sal came up from Flagstaff also, and I saw aunts and uncles and cousins that I hadn't seen for years. Just a few years in some cases, maybe 30 years in the case of one uncle . . .

It was great to spend the time with them, and a reminder of just how much they mean to me. All the photos from the trip are here.

family

 

October 31, 2007

Quotations

I thought about adding a new page, for quotations that I want to share. But it feels like they might just as well go here, snuck in now and again . . .

So, further to the below discussion re: style vs. fashion, I offer the reader this:

“The day when everyone is very, very elegant, I will start to go around dressed like a tramp.”
- Marcello Mastroianni

 

September 2, 2007

Cats

I was down on 4th Street, in Berkeley this weekend. The adopt-a-pet people were set up on the sidewalk. There were some really beautiful cats, and I thought it would be nice to have a cat again. They look at you from inside those cages, and you can’t help but want to rescue them, take them home and feed them and cuddle them. I haven't had a cat, or any pet, since Tokyo. I like both cats and dogs, but a cat would be better right now, because they require so much less maintenance. But, I’m not sure that I really want the responsibility of a pet right now . . .

 

September 1, 2007

Consumerism

My friends Marty and Takumi were baiting me again today, by email, in regard to what they consider my consumerist tendencies. They think I buy too much stuff. Well, I’ve never been afraid to spend money, if there’s something that I want. Do I covet objects? Sure, sometimes. If I have to sit in a chair, I prefer a well-designed, comfortable, and good-looking chair. I may have to pay more for the one I think is best-designed, most comfortable, and best-looking. If I can afford it, that’s the one I will choose. Do I then need a second chair? Well, I may have a guest over sometime. How about a third chair? You can see where this is headed. The point for me is that I try to lead my life based on desire, not on need. Let me say that again: I want my life to be about the fulfillment of my desires, not simply the fulfillment of my needs. Of course, needs and desires don’t have a necessary relation to consumption, although in our society it’s pretty damned likely they will. But I recognize, and will state publicly, that nothing I ever buy will make me complete.

 

August 24, 2007

Intention

I place a great deal of emphasis, in my personal philosophy, on intention. It makes all the difference in the world. In my definition of art, I say that absolutely anything can be classified as art, as long as a human has created it with the intention that it be such. (The definition of “create” remains open.)

Our legal definition of murder - as opposed to manslaughter, for example - has everything to do with intent. I was quite perturbed when, in the early 90s, the Political Correctness movement all of a sudden deemed it incorrect to call a person of African heritage “black.” Seemingly overnight, we were expected to use the term “African- American.” Never mind that I had used “black” for years without the slightest suspicion on the part of any listener that I meant it as a racial epithet. Never mind that a black person walking down the street in New York City, or San Francisco, or elsewhere in the U.S. might be, say, a visitor from France (“African-French?!”) or Jamaica (“African-Jamaican?!”) etc. etc. What no-one seems to want to consider is the intent of the person using a particular term, such as black.

And so you can understand that I would be intrigued by a quote such as this:

Design is the first signal of human intention.
- William McDonough

 

August 13, 2007

Technology

I just read something in Esquire magazine that I thought was great! It’s from a short story called “The Turnaround is at Hand” by Ralph Lombreglia:

“His mobile startled him, buzzing like a large insect. Someone had called since he’d crossed the river. All around him in the square, witch doctors with wireless devices were receiving intelligence from their investment bankers, their brokers, their chief technology officers.”

 

June 23, 2007

Fixed

I just want to say for the record that the first time I ever rode a fixed-gear bicycle was in 1983. More trendiness, this current “fixie” craze. Come to think of it, I think I saw a few riders wearing white sunglasses . . .

 

June 7, 2007

White sunglasses

I think I may puke if I see one more pair of oversized white sunglasses. These are the very epitome of fashion triumphing over style. People are wearing them because they are currently hip. Again, to be fair, there are some pairs that might also be stylish, and look good on a particular visage. So go right ahead, if you want to look like everyone else, pick up a pair . . .

 

May 19, 2007

Style vs. Fashion

I saw something in Esquire magazine the other day that reminded me of a phrase I used to use in Tokyo, to describe a certain kind of woman. The article in the June 2007 Esquire was called “How to Dress for the Occasion” (online it’s called “Why It’s Important to Dress Well”), and in it, David Granger says that dressing style is about standing out. He refers to a phrase that the magazine’s fashion director uses to describe this: the “Extra 10 Percent.” This brought back to me my phrase for a woman who thinks herself very attractive, but is in fact not so. Although she usually carries herself as if she were something special, and will always haughtily look away if you appear to be paying attention to her, this kind of woman is invariably about half as good-looking as she thinks she is. And so I called them “50% girls.”

I really am not interested in fashion, but I am very interested in style. Style I think is a desirable attribute. While fashion is something that anyone who has money can buy, style is something that has to be learned. And in the best examples, it is very personal. I don’t think it’s entirely unexpected, that I would be concerned with style. It is of course a form of design, and I am interested in every form of visual design.

There absolutely can be overlap, between the two, between fashion and style. There are many people who wear in-fashion clothing in a stylish manner. But simply having a label isn’t going to make you look good. Back in high school, the first generation of Calvin Klein jeans came out. My best friend Nick Shekro used to say, “Anyone can buy Calvins, but only a select few can wear them.” Okay, yeah, he was being a snobby gay guy, but the observation was and still is true.

And beyond the labels, I am constantly amazed by the way in which people insist on wearing a certain fashionable item, no matter how ill-suited it is to their particular body. A recent, and especially egregious example is lo-rider jeans. I mean come on, people–you know who you are! If you’ve got any kind of gut, or even a little pair of love handles, you should not be wearing these! They are not flattering!

 

April 29, 2007

Beauty

Beauty is a pretty important thing to me. It is basic to my admittedly old-fashioned definition of the purpose of art. Note that I don't say “definition of Art.” Because I certainly am pretty flexible about what I’ll qualify as art. More on that here. But I won’t get into the gory details today. I’ll just leave you with a quote:

Beauty is the promise of happiness.
- Stendhal

 

April 16, 2007

Cherry Blossoms

Early last week the cherry trees that I pass by on my bicycle on the way to work in San Francisco were in full bloom. I had one of those momentary heart-tugging memories of days past. I mean, yeah, there’s the whole ‘transitory nature of life’ thing that you’re supposed to feel when you see the petals fluttering away in the wind, but on top of that was a recent email from my friend Brent Huber in Tokyo, inviting me to join him and his crew in the park adjacent to their home for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). He has a video camera set up in a window of his house which takes a snap of the park every minute. Then he compresses the days into one minute of viewing (scroll down to March 31, 2007). I had 12 seasons of hanami in Tokyo. That’s a lot of memories.

Here’s a picture of some cherry trees I used to pass when I lived in Tokyo, and commuted to work by bicycle (plus ca change . . . )

sakura

 

April 1, 2007

Talk about talk

I miss talking with my friends. It’s strange (and I know that this is a 21st century cliché) that in this day of instantaneous communication, with choices ranging from cell phones to texting to email to IM . . . people don’t seem to have conversations anymore. As something I recently read put it, we are “more connected than we once were, and more isolated than ever before.” I remember, back before the proliferation of all the devices, getting together with friends for the sole purpose of discussion. Sure, we’d have a drink or three, but the real pleasure was in the exchange of ideas and opinions, whether we agreed or argued.

Later, when I lived in Tokyo, there was a group of 4 of us who worked together, teaching English conversation, who would gather weekly at a favorite izakaya for beers and talk. We even had a name for ourselves, which was a play on a number of things. Among our recurring topics were art and literature. I think we’d been talking about the Pre-Raphaelites, and probably Post-Modernism, in some form. And because our meeting place was in the Ginza district of Tokyo, one night we christened ourselves the Post-Ginzanites.

But these days, I often feel like I have no-one to talk with. I mean really talk with. Nobody has time, it seems. Granted, many of my friends have married, and have children, and I understand that that pretty much takes them out of the running. But really, doesn’t it feel like you can barely get someone to sit still for 30 minutes anymore? So, I’ll just talk, here on the page. Maybe someone will read something, and start a conversation.

 

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