Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unpacking This Is Going to Take Me a Lifetime

"The Ghost Dance was a technology. Literally, a technology is a systematic practice or knowledge of an art, and though we almost always apply the term to the scientific and mechanical, there is no reason not to apply it to other human-made techniques for producing desired results. Maybe the best definition would be: a technology is a practice or technique, or a device for altering the world or the experience of the world. To propose annihilating the inexorable march of history and the irreversibility of death was to propose a technology as ambitious as a moonwalk or a gene splice."

- River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West
Rebecca Solnit
p. 114

Opportunity in Adversity

So I was at Disneyland, staying at the Doubletree in Anaheim, and I read USA Today. What can I do?...

Realism and optimism are recession 'musts'

Plain Talk By Al Neuharth, USA TODAY Founder

You're getting all kinds of advice on how to survive this recession. Some is sound. Some is silly.

It's been my good fortune to have lived through 15 recessions and one depression in my 84 years. Based on those experiences, I suggest you not only will survive but ultimately thrive if you practice the proper mix of these two recession "musts":

• Realism.

• Optimism.

Reality is that we've been in a recession since last December, even though it took the National Bureau of Economic Research a year to figure it out. That reality means that if you haven't already done so, you should tighten your belt as much as necessary.

Optimism means you must understand that if you handle this problem properly, you can ride high on the wave of recovery and prosperity that follows every recession.

Tightening your belt does not mean putting money under the mattress. It means spending only what is necessary on necessities and funneling what you can into the future. The sooner the better.

That means investing now in everything worthwhile you can afford. New ideas of your own. New products. The best time to market anything new is during a recession.

We planned and launched USA TODAY during the 16-month recession of 1981-82. Because it was a popular new product, it rode the recovery in the late '80s to become the nation's No. 1 newspaper.

During the current recession, we opened the new NEWSEUM on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Because it is a popular new product, it will ride the recovery to become the No. 1 must-see attraction in the nation's capital.

If you invest in the future in time of recession, the best of times are ahead of you.
Other views on dealing with the recession:

"Right on, Al. People who keep their cool and invest in a reasonable mix of stocks and bonds will be the ones reaping rewards when the economy rebounds."

— Walter Updegrave, Ask the Expert columnist,

"Also, invest your time, to help the people overwhelmed by the recession, and stay positive about the leaders trying to get us out of this mess."

— Jane Bryant Quinn, columnist,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Long Tailin' It

Blockbuster Openings, Lackluster Box Office
By Michael Cieply

"What a year for movie openings.

I mean, who could forget 'Twilight'? Teenagers screaming for free tickets outside the dual-theater Westwood premiere here. Mayhem in the malls. Girls thirsting for Robert Pattinson. Box-office projections growing bigger and bigger as online vendors sold out theater after theater.

It was amazing. When all is said and done, maybe 24 million tickets will be sold to that movie, based on current sales. That makes it almost as big as, what?

'Patch Adams,' the No. 10 movie of 1998. Or roughly the size of 'George of the Jungle,' which placed No. 13 the year before."


"Looking back, in fact, 2008 may be remembered as the year when Hollywood succeeded in redefining the Big Event."


"It’s all great fun — and, in the heat of the moment, can seem tantalizingly real. Remember the high-heeled stampede toward 'Sex and the City'? What a romp! Cosmopolitans. Bus tours. Girls’ nights out.

Eventually, about 22 million tickets were sold. That puts it on a par with 'Steel Magnolias' in 1989 or 'The First Wives Club' in 1996 — movies that played to about the same number of viewers, but did so with considerably less noise."


[o.k., I LOVED seeing Twilight, because I saw it with my niece and that meant so much to me. But as a movie it was missing some pluck*. Thriller had so much more punch packed into 14 minutes.**]

* -- "pluck," is a word I just learned, or at least heard for the first time in this usage, when listening to some Canadian lady read the Émile Zola book Thérèse Raquin that my wife has in the car on cd. It's so peculiar -- pluck -- and "retro" as a colloquialism to no particular time...I wonder what the original french word is they've translated it from?

** -- y'know this isn't really true, but it just sounds like something a forty-something person should say in a blog. So I'm doing it in some kind of hip-to-be-square kinda way, y'know? It's bad and awkward like an "old" tape of Britney Spears on a Michael Jackson special. Do we want the blockbuster back?

Oh, she's got pluck in this one. That's for sure.

the twilight phenomenon

peace on earth

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Third Mind

Everyone wants to write a book. And now everyone can.

This seems sort of true, though who and what “everyone” means is certainly relative. There are pirates off Somalia and desperate poverty in every region of the globe.

But indeed everyone means a lot more of everyone than it did one hundred years ago, even fifty.

It's FFFin' beautiful. Look at me write here. It ain't no book, but it sure is published.

But on the other hand the printed book industry's crapped out. A good friend who just had a really successful run on a new book says her publisher could care less about the writer.

And according to recent OpEd in The New York Times by Timothy Egan:

I know: publishers say they print garbage so that real literature, which seldom makes any money, can find its way into print. True, to a point. But some of them print garbage so they can buy more garbage.

My mind is still processing the time I spent reading Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

The time is dispersed and filled with lingering, third-mind like connections of listening to the radio, reading the newspaper and living while I took in as much of the book as possible.

I will not complete these thoughts now. They are are liminal.

Following are a few:

(note: the pic above is of Burroughs and Cobain)

You and Brion have described your collaborations over the years as products of a "third mind." What is the source of this concept?

Burroughs: A book called Think And Grow Rich
Gysin: It says that when you put two minds together. . .
Burroughs. . . . . there is always a third mind
Gysin: . . . . a third and superior mind. . . .
Burroughs: . . . . as an unseen collaborator.
Gysin: That's where we picked up the title. Our book The Third Mind is all about cut-up materials.


Grammy nominations a snooze

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Friday, December 5, 2008

So-called illegal downloads may no longer be the gravest danger faced by the imperiled recording industry: Just plain bad music may be what ultimately does the business in, and if you're looking for evidence, just scan the list of Grammy nominees announced Wednesday night in a prime-time TV special that was anything but.

It's not just that the biggest selling record of the year is rapper Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" - last year's top seller was "High School Musical II," followed closely by Josh Grobin's Christmas album - or even the uninspiring lineup of dull, predictable Grammy nominations.

It is the complete and utter absence of any major work by an industry that once shipped masterpieces weekly.


In his Annual “cutting the Long Tail down to size” roundup, Anderson writes:

My answer to that is that fortunately social media creates an infinite number of networks, many of them focused on niche subjects, so that many winners can take “all” of their micromarket, while still having the collective effect of redistributing demand in the entire market over more variety.

* justreeeead this one.

Chris Anderson posted on November 15, 2008 --
Does the Long Tail create bigger hits or smaller ones?.


Seeking Financial Guidance on the Web
By Claire Cain Miller
December 21, 2008

Amid the big slump, many people are turning to the Web, as I wrote in an article on Saturday. Disillusioned by banks and the stock market, they are logging on to sites that pull together their financial data from across the Web, help them create budgets and offer a community where they can talk about their finances with others.


I do think that Anderson should be exploring an edition for the Not-for-profit Sphere. There are different standards there, and in much the same way Jim Collins produced Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.


In the non-profit world there is more room to explore shifting definitions of VALUE as “goods which can be exchanged.” The economic and relative meaning of VALUE is very important in the not-for-profit world.

At the upcoming California Association of Museum’s conference in S.F. in late February, I am on a panel about monetizing websites.

And I am leading sessions at the 2009 Western Museums Association.

In both I will explore different meanings of value and seek feedback.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


interesting piece re:twitter and friend feed. Inneresting because metrics, value systems and honest assesment of the new life that is on-line.

looking forward.

P.S. is it true that twitter won't update my facebook status any longer? is it a feud? or am I just being punished?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fingers Crossed

From The Chronicle: Year-End Giving Update

Charities have chalked up mixed results as they seek donations in the final weeks of the year, reports The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Thirty-seven of the 66 charities The Chronicle contacted said that contributions had dropped this year. The remaining 29 said contributions were flat or had risen.

Even organizations that have received big increases are worried, however, because they say demand is increasing fast and they are facing cuts in government aid.

The Chronicle will continue to report on year-end results in the coming days; feel free to send your results to

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Disneyland December 2008

We went to Disneyland this weekend. It was the trip of a lifetime. I hope there will be others -- trips of a lifetime and Disney excursions -- and I hope this one stays up there amongst both lists.

Coming down, Poppop drove the whole way and there was SNOW in what’s known as the “grapevine.” So we did not go the inland route, but followed down the 101 toward Los Angeles. We did not see the snow, but we’d see it on the way back.

Altogether, including a Mickey D’s stop and some sushi well outside L.A. – maybe even before Oxnard -- it was fourteen hours. For me Oxnard was made famous by Ill Repute as the "Land of No Toilets." They had a ”gold vinyl” release of their record “What Happens Next/Oxnard - Land Of No Toilets.” We drove through Oxnard, needed a toilet and found no useful exits. I'm not sure if that’s what Ill Repute meant. But it sure felt true on this trip.

Big driving in California is still so weird for me, because I do not know California and it is so gosh darn amazingly beautiful. The brown grass, the golden grass. I will never forget the cross country trip Karen and I took together to move to California some seven years ago and the first I saw this golden brown grass. We’d read Capote’s In Cold Blood together for a book group only month before. I always remember vividly the way Capote talks about the grass of the west like a lion’s fur.

L’il E’s been inventorying the Disney catalog since for longer than many of us can remember. And maybe that’s sad; cuz the boy ain’t even three. But he has a keen memory, a pretty profound sense for narrative and the ability to understand drama.

Now sure, maybe I am projecting, but it does seem like one of those Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter type things.

His grandmother was worried that the size and scale of things outside of the boobtube might disconcert him. The first thing he did when he saw the first large-scale Mickey repro was to try and untie the bow, to topple the package, to bring Mickey down to him. His cousin joined in.

The rides did not freak him out. In fact, he had a great time. We took the advice and counsel of Disney veteran Allyson Lazar and headed straight for Peter Pan, then Snow White. Then we did Dumbo and Emil saw Buzz Lightyear, “in person.”

The drive down was a really great thing for two reasons: I hadn’t been on a long, crowded family drive for some thirty years and I finally got a round to reading the most recent compiled essays by David Sedaris entitled When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

Thanks to Karen's sister, we rented a Kia minivan. I slept most of the way, which is what I was really looking forward to.

The new Sedaris is a very serious book that clearly displays his increased talents as an essayist and social theorist. His story telling has limped a bit and he confesses to stopping drinking and smoking at the very end. But he has honed his craft so that each essay shimmers unexpectedly like a Kincaid.

When it was over, it was over. Li'l E's face-painted cousin was done. I waited outside the French Quarter with Karen's sister and the boys, while other folks took in The Haunted House as the sun went down. A small dixieland jazz band played Christmas songs.

Oh, there's much more to be told. And the next day we saw the snow that has kept us from the pass the two days earlier. We had an inkling of that snow from the view in Santa Barbara we'd seen two days earlier on the way down -- where, from the highway, you can see from ocean to mountainous, sometimes snow-covered peak. California's something else.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Milk Post Three

MILK so effectively stays on-story: Harvey Milk awakens at forty; moves to San Francisco with his new lover Scott; Milk helps develop the Castro as a gay Mecca; runs and runs for office until redistricting turns in his favor and he joins the City’s Board of Supervisors; as the first openly gay elected official in the United States Harvey Milk permanently and irrevocably affects positive change in the American psyche; lastly, he is shot down by a jilted co-worker, shot violently, tragically tumbling down with a banner advertising Tosca at the Opera in clear view.

All of this is historical fact (don’t know about the Tosca banner; though if the real-life friends and community leaders who helped to develop the film chose this fictitious embellishment, more power to them…).

So I am not ruining anything, and in fact one of the film’s strengths is that, like some other great works of art, it starts from the end. Diane Feinstein’s announcement of the assassination kicks off the film. Penn begins the recitation to a cassette tape of a script to be read upon the event of his assassination from the onset. And early on in the narrative, Milk proclaims to his lover on the event of his fortieth birthday that he will not see fifty. (One of the least elegant moments in the film is the heavy-handed repeating of this scene after the Honorable Supervisor Harvey Milk is shot.)

As someone who is about to turn forty, another thing of-note is the very promise of turning forty. Really, at every turn life presents renewal, and longevity encourages investigation, reassessment and opportunity, the promise of something new.

The other day I was talking to someone who said, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.” I told her that’s a sentiment you will try and reclaim throughout your life -- “I don’t know what I want to do with my life" -- and to cherish it, cultivate it.

“My name is Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you,” he says over and over again to the public as a broad come on. Come on. Come on!

Milk Post Two

The closing scene of the film is an elegiac march of candle bearers by the tens of thousands down Market Street – artful harbingers, mournful bellwethers.

I remember that image, as a child, on the national news…a strange media silence, before the ridiculousness of the “Twinkie defense” took hold.

MILK mentions the “Twinkie defense,” only as a footnote and right before the credits roll.

The movie forced my psychic recall of the march and forced away any possible familiarity with Twinkies, junk food junkies, or the eerie old hit penned by Larry Groce that got a lot of play around the same time as Rick Dees' Disco Duck.


It’s odd and amazing to consider how much the world was upside down when Harvey Milk was being as serious as he could be, as serious as humanly possible.

He said then, “My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”

MILK Post One

I saw MILK two weeks ago. I knew MILK would be one of the few movies I saw in 2008. As the father of a two-and-a-half year old boy, my wife and I do not get out to the movies much. When the movie’s forthcoming started a buzz around the S.F. Bay Area, with Sean Penn (a Bay Area celeb) playing the once San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, I knew this one was necessary. And because of Milk himself.

MILK. It's important for now and future generations. I was a kid when he was shot. As someone from the east coast, I knew more about the “Twinkie defense” than Harvey Milk himself, somewhat and until now.

Sean Penn’s MILK was equally as much a compliment to Penn’s skills as an actor as the characterization was a testament to the fullness of being that Harvey Milk embodied. You got the sense there was enough Milk for Penn to climb up into and populate.

In the film, there could have been more about Milk’s philosophy, more about his love life or more about his abasement or spiritual transcendence. Penn’s portrayal was moving, human, sparse and complete to the very confines of the film. He filled the box. So too was the movie itself expansive and contained.

I can’t get The Little Mermaid off my mind, mainly, because with a two-and-a-half year old at home, it is often on.

The Little Mermaid is a simple story about a girl, a sea witch, an absent mother of four and a benevolent, bumbling patriarch who relies on a crab to rear and to admonish his daughters.

The movie follows one linear track, but all that it suggests of importance:

- Mother, daughter, father relations at a time of sexual awakening
- Issues of identity and assimilation
- Alterity
- And the truly remarkable degrees of invaginative (*) imagery in the Disney animation

are never dealt with directly, by choice.

(* - A stunningly evocative term introduced to me by Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime that proposes a counter point to the phallic, “A space before it was a figure, whether or not the figure then becomes a reason for the space and thereby its retrospective origin."
Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy. Beauty and the Contemporary Sublime. New York, NY: Allworth Press, 1999. p. 64.)

O.K., I digress…I guess, I just had to get that off my chest.

But I was struck by the strategic, moving and thoughtful manner with which Gus Van Sant and his team chose to deal with certain subjects by omission, namely the AIDS epidemic that decimated the souls that populated MILK and only a few short years after the films historical culmination. (con't)

Friday, December 12, 2008

high fire ceramics

This Ron Nagle/Don Ed Hardy show at Rena Bransten Gallery is the bomb!

This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things - a mass conflagration of thoughts, adventure & commodity crammed into a small gallery in downtown San Francisco for a brief period of time.

It takes you from the distribution of "china," Empire, tattooing and the body-politic politics of body, to pop & funk and the flac·cid·i·ty of late twentieth-century; post-nuclear aesthetics, back around through high-fire ceramics to the commercial distribution of amalgamated mass culture through the recent success of Don Ed Hardy in every Macy's and Nordstrom's in America.

It's quiet. But if you can hear the noise, this show's the bomb.

And the old guys sit around in the gallery by way of the power of video and say piss and sh*t and f@ck and everything.

Jesse Hamlin wrote a nice brief intro in the Chron's Date Lines: News from the Bay Area arts scene:

Ron Nagle and Don Hardy have been chums since the early 1960s, when Hardy - an Orange County surfer who'd bring a sophisticated visual vocabulary to the rogue art of tattoo - went north to study at the San Franciso Art Institute, where Nagle was teaching ceramic sculpture. Equally attuned to the forms and colors of Asian art, Giorgio Morandi and California hot-rod culture, the artists have always shared a certain sensibility. Now, for the first time, they're showing their work together, in an exhibition at the Rena Bransten Gallery called "Duo Mysto."

Opening Thursday, it features some of the intriguing little organic forms that Nagle has been making lately, as well as his drawings, and ceramics and prints by Hardy. Nagle gave his friend a crash course in ceramics, helping him cast models for the vessels that Hardy created with master craftsmen in Akita, Japan. Using underglaze, China paint and etched lines, Hardy layered some of the forms with his signature beasts and mythical figures.

The show runs through Jan. 10 at 77 Geary St. in San Francisco. The genre-defying duo will be there for the opening reception, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11. More information at (415) 982-3292 or

This show's the bomb. Don't miss it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Angus Makes SF Weekly

In an article showcasing fans at the AC/DC show at the Oracle Arena on 12/4, SFWeekly called out Karen's coworker for whom I did her Angus poster.

Caption reads: "One fan shows us a poster made by a Berkeley artist."

Comment (1) reads: "Christopher…Great pic of me and my prized Angus painting. Thank you! Artist credit goes to James Leventhal. But all the credit goes to Angus last night for a front row experience of a lifetime! Cheers, Kelly"
Comment by Kelly K. from San Rafael on Dec 5th, 2008, 18:10 pm

Thursday, December 04, 2008


MAGNES & artist Jonathon Keats bring together a panel of scholars for a disputation, a "synod".

All this as part of the MAGNES project

Very successful. Panelists included:

Dr. Robert A. Burton, neurologist and author of, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not (2008)

Professor John Campbell, Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley and author of Past, Space and Self (1994) and Reference and Consciousness (2002)

Dr. Ilan Roth, Senior Physicist, Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley, and Co-Investigator on the Cluster satellites

Alla Efimova, Ph.D, Acting Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Magnes