Saturday, August 9, 2014


I obviously am not much for tending the garden of this blog. To expand the metaphor, this blog has thick, thorny vines and a family of rally possums (shout out to the 2014 A's!!!!) living in it. However, every year we do have 2 events to make the passage of time: our Halloween pumpkin carving and Outside Lands. I'll do my best to give a check in for that.

Mary and I went yesterday for Day One. No Sam. He is enjoying time volunteering for the theater company and playing with friends. Plus, he has never been much of a fan of outdoor concert going. We skipped our usual routine of Irish pastry breakfast and instead opted for a home breakfast. (I am enjoying some sweet potato now as I write this post.) We got street parking with little problem and got in line by 10:50. Getting in was without incident and OSL continues to make the experience as easy as can be expected.

While normally we start at Sutro and the stage even had an act we liked in Rayland Baxter, I had a feeling this year towards seeing a more loud opening act. We went to Panhandle (the stage that probably has my highest ratio of great OSL memories) for Night Terrors of 1927.

Lead singer Jarrod Gorbel has a voice that delivers to your entire being. In the first song, Mary and I both thought, "Hmmm, should we have stuck with Sutro?" When suddenly his mouth opened 3 times the size it had previously and he belted out a loud meaningful feeling stretch of song. From that moment on we were hooked. We stayed for the entire set, which they ended abruptly with 5 minutes left and not much of a good-bye. Well, it left me wanting more. I look forward to watching this band grow.

 From there, I was ready for some twang at Sutro. We headed over for Greensky Bluegrass. Well, first we stopped for our favorite spicy pie! Pineapple and jalapeno is a nice treat since I haven't been eating animals for the past 4 weeks+.


Greensky Bluegrass were 5 guys lined up with 5 stringed instruments. Mary had two lovely observations, "Look they all have instruments." Today's music can be a bit lacking in true instruments as you know. With Mary's help we identified: mandolin, dobro, guitar, banjo and upright bass (although it was the skinniest bass I have ever seen.)  Within the first song, Mary dubbed the mandolin player "The Jim James of Bluegrass, he only needs a towel over his head."

They were a force of strings. Just a wonderful hour of jams and smiles. Very Sutro appropriate. It was nice to see what energy five people and a slew of strings could create on a starting-to-turn-sunny day in Golden Gate Park.

From there, we went to get a water refill. Wow, that sucked. Previous years it was easy and fast. Now we had to stand in disorganized, long lines. We are thinking of bringing plastic (!!!) bottles today rather than deal with that mess again. We made it back to Sutro for some Phosphorescent magic. We enjoyed about 3 songs and then headed across to Panhandle for some Nahko and Medicine for the People, who had a positive vibe and world music sound. After that set, we decided to head to Twin Peaks stage early to get set-up for Grouplove. Mary noticed the bleachers on the side that had a place to sit and more importantly, rest our backs. We chilled to some fun Warpaint tunes and noticed that the crowd was getting big and probably going to be GIANT for Grouplove. When we saw them at OSL in 2011 it was like this:

Now it was like this:

We are very happy for their success, and glad we got to see them at smaller venues back in the day. Their set for as always full of intense playful energy. I have to admit, I enjoyed them better now that they let most of the singing come from Christian and Hannah. Those two firecrackers deliver at 100% the entire set. Also, it gave them the chance to do a cover, rather than one of the other band-mate's songs. And boy did they deliver. They played a freaking great rendition of "Drunk in Love." Hannah nailed the surfboard part.

Given the nice spot we had and the full schedule of the next couple of days, we decided to keep our spot and just chill. I went and got some water which again Flowater out me through a long line. However, this time I did not mind, because I got to enjoy much of Bear Hands set. From our bleachers we watched Tegan and Sara - who strangely asked if living in San Francisco if we "could stand the rain." Um, we're in a drought... We got bundled up as the sun set and enjoyed some songs from Arctic Monkeys.

We left early to get a few Kanye songs in, so I felt comfortable with the fact that "Yes, I've seen Kanye." Luckily, we got their for a few songs from the first album (which I know.) Also, he gave a shout out to his recently married baby mama being there, who we did not see. We left around 9:30 which helped us beat the exiting crowd and allowed me to listen to the final inning of the A's victory on the radio.

A pretty darn good day. OK time to get ready for Day Two!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

For our 2014 Thanksgiving, we decided to head to Tahoe, specifically Lone Eagle Grille. The meal and atmosphere were marvelous. Mary, Sam and I took off with Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything on audiobook.  The drive was lovely and we made it to Tahoe with time to spare.

When we walked in, we saw a huge gorgeous buffet of food which we quickly realized to actually be JUST THE DESSERTS. I had regretted not requesting a window, but figured everyone would make that request and we would just take the table that the Thanksgiving spirits gave us. Low and behold, I have done a lovely job of paying homage to the "food gods" and thus we were given a table blanketed in dim sunlight with a view of an outdoor fire and the lake itself. 

After ordering our glass of sparking wine, we hit the cornucopia. Sam went the traditional Thanksgiving route with a bunch of desserts. Mary focused on crab over carb and hit the seafood bar on her multiple trips. I wanted to explore. Here is my best memory at how it went for me:

Pumpkin Gnocchi, Sage Brown Butter, Red Onion Marmalade
Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Risotto, Pumpkin Ale Braised Short Ribs

Grilled Sea Scallops Braised Niman Ranch Pork Belly, Garnet Yam Puree, Pickled Napa Cabbage, Blood Orange Gastrique
Grilled Lamb Tenderloin Cumin Scented Pearl Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers, Braised Kale, Mint Crème Fraiche

Hamachi Tartar with Avocado/Ponzu Sauce
Kohlrabi Carpaccio with Foie Gras Emulsion/Unagi
Some bites of Mary's cheeses, which definitely included Cowgirl Red Hawk among others

Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Maine Lobster, Pumpkin Puree, Pistachio Pesto
Oyster Casserole Gratin
A bit of Sam's plate of Turkey, Prime Rib and a smoked meat of some sort
A bit of Mary's plate of Dungeness Crab Salad, minted cucumbers, avocado puree

Lamb Osso Bucco, Butternut Squash and Barley Risotto
Butter Milk Mashed Potatoes
Sausage and Sage Stuffing
Turkey Gravy
Maple Butter Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower, Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Spiced Walnut Pumpkin Cognac Cheesecake
Pumpkin Pie with a Chocolate-Dipped Cookie
A Cranberry Biscotti

It was an absurd meal. I had a second cup of coffee by the outdoor fire and then we took a beach walk. The long drive home was a bit tough. I definitely would have preferred some football and a nap. But the sun did show off some dazzling pinks and reds. Overall, a lovely day to celebrate being thankful.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pop Up Culture Lab

pop up culture lab

This fall, I plan to launch a Pop Up Culture Lab.

I commonly get asked, "What is Pop Up Culture Lab?"

The answer, "I don't know yet - but I am going to work on articulating it."

Well it is time to do that, I guess.

Many students (and non-students) have asked about having a playful space to ideate and make stuff collaboratively, or at least with peer feedback. I complain that too often my students look to create portfolio work only in classes. This pattern limits the possibilities to assignments, people who happen to take class at the same time and the strengths and opinions of instructors and those convenient peers. That is WAY too limiting. I prefer messier possibilities.

One of my assignment successes over the past several years has been asking students to make a "Cultural Map." They are randomly assigned an area of San Francisco to explore (through these great cards) and then asked to observe and absorb the culture of the area and create a map. That is practically all that is asked. It is a frustrating assignment, because they expect me to hand them instructions, a checklist and examples. However, I learned earlier in my teaching career that students can follow instruction mostly. What happens when they have to create from the elements? I have no fixed expectation of the assignment, except that they truly make a cultural map. They understand what Culture is as well as what a Map is - therefore they should be able to make a Cultural Map. It is a wonderful challenge.

Well, that is where Culture Lab originated. I want to operate in the near infinite context of Culture, so that was a given word. I chose Lab, because I worked at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in college and loved the environment. I have not spent much time in workshops, regrettably, so that wasn't going to work. A lab is a fun place of mess and order, of collaboration and solo effort, of ideation and making, of precision and possibility. I can't recall many of my classrooms at LSU, but I'll never forget the many aspects and stories of that lab. I want to recreate that.

I kept exploring how to get the space, but three things happened. One, I didn't see the dedicated space appearing in my near future. Two, people kept volunteering space to host. Three, we live in San Francisco and I want to use the city and all it offers as the lab as often as possible. Therefore: Pop Up. Furthermore, I love the word play with Pop Culture.


One of my early fears is to articulate the Pop Up Culture Lab out of the appropriate zone. 
If I am too broad, people won't know what it is and it could spiral into confusion and lack of understanding.
If I am too specific, I am not open to opportunity and most importantly I want it created by the passion, curiosity and rigor of early players.

It is a place where interestingness happens.
I do see complexity tooled.
There will be rigorous, play-filled building.
A pattern will unfold of Curiosity -> Exploration -> Experiment -> Making -> Developing
Often, we'll operate within a context or theme.
We will share.
Time and attention will be devoted.
Passion will fuel inquisitiveness.
Digging deep will be respected and encouraged above all.
Imagination will flourish.

The rest? We'll see.

Where will it exist?
I have a Facebook page, a url (and a square space account to use as I decide what to do), a Twitter, an Instagram, a Tumblr and an email. I am not really using any of that stuff yet. We'll just let it breathe and see what develops. I don't know how I'll use these tools yet.

You know that great metaphor in landscape architecture about creating the space and then seeing where people walk to decide where the sidewalks will be? Well, the grass is being planted. We'll start exploring.

The first Pop Up Culture Lab will happen in September 2013 (and as special homage, it will be themed on Cultural Maps.) More. Soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Outside Lands 2013

Outside Lands 2013

Outside Lands 2013 is over. It was the fifth time for Mary and I to go. (Wow, I should do a "best of" at some point and time.) This year may have been my favorite so far, but I should let some time past before designating it so. However, getting to be a "pro" at this is definitely helping.

I'll start first with my line-up. Unless indicated, it was full-set.

Foy Vance
A few Smith Western songs
A few Houndmouth songs
A few Wild Belle songs
A few The Heavy songs
Band of Horses
The National
A few Paul McCartney songs
Some comedy with Wyatt Cenac
A few more Paul McCartney songs

Bhi Bhiman
A few Soft White Sixities songs
Competitive Erotic Fan Fiction with Bruce McCulloch
A few Gary Clark Jr. songs
Several Young the Giant songs
Thao and The Get Down Stay Down
The Tallest Man On Earth
The Head and The Heart
Nine Inch Nails

A few The Wild Feathers songs
Little Green Cars
A Dawes song in the Toyota tent
A King Tuff "interview" in the Toyota tent
Two MS MR songs in the Toyota tent
A few Foals songs
A few Emeli Sandé songs
A few Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue songs
Willie Nelson and Family
Red Hot Chili Peppers


1) The Head and The Heart continue to deliver for us. This performance was our fourth time seeing them live, and we had a blast. I am quite excited about their new album dropping this year. I was very happy with how beautifully they were set up by energetic, emotional sets from Thao and The Get Down Stay Down + The Tallest Man On Earth, two new acts for us.

2) The headliners. Last year I did not care about the headliners particularly. This year I did - I even cared about the "fourth headliner," Phoenix who I didn't even get to see. We only did a touch of Paul McCartney. Mary and Sam weren't too interested, and we know we need our rest to endure 3 straight days of nearly 12-hours of live music and dancing/walking/standing. I got to sing "Blackbird" with him. I dug that. NIИ, Trent Reznor, the lights - wow. Powerful, beautiful, unique, thoughtful, intense. I had a difficult time deciding between Phoenix and Nine Inch Nails. I am definitely happy with my pick (plus - ALWAYS choose the huge Polo Field of mainstage for the night show - ALWAYS!) Red Hot Chili Peppers proved to be fun and nostalgic. Hearing that "Funky Ass Flea Bass" live finally was a sincere treat.

3) Willie Nelson. Willie. Nelson. Goosebumps. His van pulled up and within 3 minutes he was out of the van, on stage, and belting out Whiskey River to the crowd. The backstage was full of OL performers, a musicians musician. He played so many standards like On the Road Again, Georgia On My Mind, Always On My Mind, Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys and more. He decided to do some Hank Williams including Jambalaya ... and just when I thought the moment couldn't be more like 1986 in my childhood, Bob Weir walked out and sang with him a bit. Of course the ultimate moment came when Bob and Willie sang "Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die)" in Golden Gate Park San Francisco. If there is a deity of pot - it was there at that moment without a doubt. My bucket list got shorter for sure. (Quick shout out to the lovely job Dawes did setting up this performance. Solid.)

4) Band of Horses and The National put on solid sets of great music. Sure it is "dad rock." But I am a dad - and I like to rock.

San Francisco Outside Lands - well done. Again. It was kind of a joke when I was considering moving back to SF from Alaska. I did not want to picture experiencing the festival from Facebook, Instagram and the live video feed. We'll probably buy Eager Beaver tickets yet again, because this festival continues to deliver. I am lucky.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Starting college

If I had just graduated high school and were looking at starting college in the fall, this is what I would tell myself:

"Take a year. Survive for that year. Learn to code, learn to use creative softwares that help you make things. Learn something every day from the vast library of the internet. Do things that you love, but see if you can make a living at it. Try stuff out on the cheap. Figure out what is worth working hard at. Pay attention to HOW you think, not just your preferences in subjects. Constantly evaluate your behavior. When (If?) you do go to school, choose a dynamic urban location. Try to figure out who you will learn with, rather than just from. While in school, learn to be creative. It is a hard thing to learn on most jobs, so you'll want it just baked into your process of doing. Creativity as default. Take lots of comparative literature. Write. Produce. Constantly make stuff. Study Nature, it has been solving problems a whole lot longer than humans as a subset. Look for free (or at least cheap) programs where passionate people are talking about what they are doing. Ask them questions. Collaborate. Develop new thinking, rather than worrying about 'getting it right.' Start from zero and build up, rather than 100 trying not to fall down. The best jobs in your future do not exist yet. Train for the many jobs you will have, not just that first one. Be thoughtful, empathetic and present. Have fun."

That's probably enough. I am not sure if I would have listened even this long.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Bay Area Sports Report Card

Bay Area Sports

I am a sports fan. And when I first moved to the Bay Area in 2006, I tried to force myself to become a fan of the teams here, but it just didn't take. Now that I have moved back, I feel less transient and more committed to the experience of the area and joining the community. I feel we will live here as long as it will have me. That means I am going to need to find a local team to root for authentically. I enjoy the live spectacle, listening/watching and the social connection that can come with being a local sports fan. I studied it closely the year I worked in the luxury suites at Wrigley Field. While no sports team will probably ever come close to the affinity I feel towards the LSU Tigers, and being a Cubs fan is a lifelong journey once you start it. I am planting the seeds to make some connections with the teams here. Here is my report card so far.

Oakland A's (Grade: A-) I love baseball. I prefer NL, growing up an Astros (back when they were NL) fan and then moving to Cubs. I think the DH thing is silly. However reservations about AL rules aside, I love the Oakland A's, and in particular I love THESE A's. Grant Balfour's dominating stuff, the outfielders climbing the walls to rob homeruns. Donaldson's rise to greatness, Colon's ridiculous control. Something about them getting snubbed this year in the All-Star game despite being in first place makes the team all that much more special. I wish the stadium was better. It is about the crappiest place to watch an MLB game in the country. The fans don't show-up like they should for a team this good and fun to watch. However, that keeps ticket prices down, so score. I regularly go to StubHub and get great seats for face or less. I am worried about becoming an A's fan and then having them leave. But for now, I am going to enjoy the ride. And now that Oakland is so "hot," maybe they can hold onto the team.

Golden State Warriors (B+) Many people have jumped the bandwagon on this one, like me. It is hard to live here and not be suddenly entranced by the young talent on this team: Stephan Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. I grew up a huge basketball fan and avid player. However, the fandom slid once I left college and the frequency of play. I was a Warriors fan before, because of being such a huge follower of Chris Mullin and even a bit of Tim Hardaway. If the team weren't presently so exciting, I probably wouldn't be so enamored, but I'm going to take the momentum while it is here.

San Francisco 49ers (B) I grew up sick of watching this team beat my Saints. And they continue to have New Orleans number. However, it is difficult not to like Jim Harbaugh as a coach. Also, with the signing of Eric Reid, one of my favorite LSU Tigers, I think I can enjoy watching this team (but I'll still root for the Saints to take them in the NFC Championship.)

San Francisco Giants (B-) I had to finally admit, I just don't like the the Giants. I tried to: I drafted their players for my fantasy team, I went to the games, I hung out with friends who were fans and spoke about the team enthusiastically. But you can't fake this stuff. I hate the Giants. Most of their fans annoy me. (But it is still one of the best places to watch a game!)

Standford/Cal College Sports (C) meh.

Oakland Raiders (D) They stink and the fans are stuck doing the same things they've done since the 80's. It used to be fearsome, now it is sad. The only thing the coliseum sucks at more than being a baseball park is being a football stadium. They just need to tear it down and give the Raiders back to L.A.
San Jose Sharks (F) I don't like hockey. San Jose is far away. The colors are ugly. But darn it if their games don't interrupt when I want to watch some NBA! Ugh.

There you have it. We'll check in on this later in the term.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Glaciers are dying

This is Matanuska Glacier and it is dying.


Well, it is melting. And faster than it should be. In fact, (yes - fact) we are losing most of the world's glaciers. The movie "Chasing Ice" (watch it on Netflix) is what opened my eyes to these sad occurances. As the movie points out, the issue of climate change doesn't have much of a "face." Ice is the face of climate change. The movie is stunning in its visuals and landscape. The story is interesting and even adventurous at times. The facts are fascinating. Beautiful Evidence.

Matanuska Glacier is one of my favorite places on Earth. It is the experience from Alaska I will most carry with me for the rest of my life. I wandered the area with "wow" dropping from my mouth. Please go visit a glacier, if you have the opportunity. I once asked my Dad who has traveled the world extensively, "Where was most remarkable?" He didn't hesitate at Antarctica. He said the sights and sounds of the ice were the closest he thinks he'll experience to going to another planet. While I experienced vastly different ice, I agree. I heard sounds and silence that spoke to my DNA. I saw new colors and shapes. I better understood this planet and my place on it.

Climate change is real. Our way of life is creating it. We are killing glaciers. And that is a shame.

My first trip to Matanuska Glacier
My second trip to Matanuska Glacier

Sam and Cam in an Ice Cave @ Matanuska Glacier

Friday, July 5, 2013

My #knowyourself experience with UP by @jawbone so far


Why I got a Jawbone UP and how it is going.

One of the nice things about teaching in the world of new media, technology, creativity, etc - is that I find myself having to occasionally buy toys in order to keep up with student ideas. It was my excuse for buying an iPad when I did, and it once again was my excuse for buying UP by Jawbone. I know I need to invest in both Quantified Self and Internet of Things. These two ideas are going to play significant roles in driving brand creativity in the next 5 years. (Ironically, I went to a panel on Wearable Technology shortly after getting the UP and we had Tom Bassett come into my class and discuss the idea of Connecting (watch the short film.)

Out of all the wristband measuring products, why did I choose UP by Jawbone. A mix of these factors, sort of ranked:
1) I knew someone who had one, so I could check out the social aspect.
2) Local - I support Bay Area as much as possible.
3) #wearorange - They had a promotion where I could get orange (my favorite color) AND it supported a cause I support.
4) Looks good.
5) Good price.

So, it has only been two weeks, but how is it going?

Behavior. Changed.
I definitely act differently. While the band is for steps, sleep, food and mood. I was mostly focused on just getting a little bit more movement in my life. Making the smarter simpler decisions: taking the stairs, walking around the block instead of sitting and waiting, leave my office during my breaks for small walks. And that has happened. I also avoid shortcuts.

But it has had residual effects beyond just "walking more." I heard an anecdote once that Alice Waters recommends you grow at least one ingredient, because once you do that you will surround the meal experience with goodness. If you grow a carrot, you are going to make sure all the ingredients that go with it are fresh and tasty. You are going to present the dish in a beautiful way. You are going to savor the flavor, and seek out your carrot. That has happened with me. I am eating better (even though I am not yet using the UP's food tracking.) And, I am becoming more self-aware of how I am spending my time. There is an alarm I set on the UP that buzzes if I have been inactive for 30 minutes. Every time I get that buzz (usually in front of a screen,) I finish what I was doing and then do 10 pushups.

I have also watched the behavior of those around me change. People take walks with me. That is nice.

My. Data.
I want to know myself. I know I am a creature of habit. I know a bulk of my decisions happen with little awareness or conscious thought. So, by grabbing some of that info, I start to gain some more control.

I have taken 200,000+ steps since 3:40PM on Jun 21st - over 14,000 steps a day.

I set a goal of 10,000 steps a day, because that is what Jawbone recommends. I had evenings where I got home and was at 7,000. Off I went for a walk. I had had no idea I had moved so little that day. Today, I think I am going to up my goal to 12,000 and see what happens.

OK, I'll do another check-in after some time has passed. Time to take some steps.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I just don't know

Tomorrow, I will take to the road, solo. Mary, Sam and the cats will too, in a separate car at a separate pace.
Anchorage -> San Francisco.
I have spent more time downloading to Rdio, then looking at maps. Mostly Outside Lands prep and A.V. Club best comedy albums of the past couple of years.
I don't know what the next week holds.
I kind of know my route. I will stop for gas every time my tank gets to half full.
I have a sleeping bag for the back of the Subaru Outback. I will probably find a hotel here and there.
I have two pairs of clothes (but only one pair of socks.)
I have a bag of raisins.
I need to go to Costco today.

But here is what I hope: 
I hope to see bears
I hope to swim in more lakes, than showers I take
I hope to say few words, read few statuses
I hope to have no clue what happens to you this week, until you tell me over a coffee, lunch or pint some time
I hope to see bison
I hope to get lost in my head and recall that which is hiding
I hope to dance with trees
I hope to literally stop. And smell the flowers
I hope to see goats and sheep
I hope to lose track of time and just sleep when I'm tired and eat when I'm hungry
I hope to hear silence and thundering waterfalls at the same time
I hope to wander
I hope to name the mountains what I think they should be named. If I am really lucky they will tell me themselves
I hope to breathe the best air of my life and therefore know life

I used to have a hashtag for the trip #2cats1subaru, but now Mary and Sam will take the cats. The trip has no hashtag; it has no theme. That is beautiful. There is a starting point. There is a destination. In between is just what will be.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why you shouldn't work in advertising

... or what advertising agencies need to do to recruit and retain top talent.

Below is absolutely nothing new. New is hard. These are just some recycled thoughts to help me figure out a few things.

I play at an art school in San Francisco, preparing people to become "Creative Strategists." Historically, the program is designed to place graduates in advertising agencies - but they want to go to these shops for employment less and less. Our geographic location means that we are surrounded by many companies doing many interesting things. Students are starting to wander.

Now I've worked in 7 advertising agencies in my career. I loved working in every one of them. I hated working in every one of them. (Thank you Mr. Dickens.) Below are the reasons I've collected that people hesitate to work in advertising agencies anymore (newbies to exhausted vets.)


1. Timesheets - Wow, do the people who work in the industry hate these things. When people move from a timesheet situation to a non-timesheet situation, it seems to be akin to taking the doughnut off the bat or when Rock Lee takes the weights off his body (obligatory baseball and comic book reference, check.) I understand how "essential" they are, just like media commissions used to be. Essential factors of the past are what drives down innovation of the future. I don't have the solution. I am just saying that in the world of "Time as currency," time-tracking time is a ridiculous, tedious waste. Also, the very act commoditizes someone's skills, talents and value, as well as biases our client-recommendations. 

2. Completion - In my anecdotal assessment, this reason is the top one given for the talent-suck from advertising agencies. Too often working in an agency means you are not going to see your hard work reach the light of day. I once worked about 75% of my time for about 4 months on a project that was nixed due to "distribution inefficiencies." We are trained in our broken education system to think Failure is the worst thing in the world. Obviously, we all grow up learning that is not the case. Failure = learning. What is most difficult is not seeing if your idea could actually do anything including failing, the device essential to growth. Advertising agency employees get tired of not seeing their ideas even planted, so they go off to the glorious pastures of failure. (This story is best expressed in the well-know story of Eric Ryan getting sick of Big Soap following an old road, so he starts Method.)

Sam's finishing touches

These last three I am going to steal from Daniel Pink's book on motivation, Drive. I loved reading this book.

3. Autonomy - I have had the great pleasure of "building an academic program" over the past several years. One of the things I love about the Academy of Art University as an employer is the immense autonomy they have given me. Now, I haven't been given a ton of resources, but I would easily choose scrappy autonomy over decision-by-committee resources. Advertising agencies are client-service driven, so autonomy is not high on the list of offerings. As mentioned in the previous factor, decisions are often beyond one's control. I understand these are inherent in the nature of the current advertising agency model, so what can agencies do? Can they offer opportunities for control? Just because it isn't baked into the model, doesn't mean it should be abandoned.

4. Mastery - Wouldn't you like to apply grit and enter a state of flow towards improving on something that matters? Of course, this reason is the vision why many of my students enter graduate school; the brave ones fulfill it, the lazy ones go into debt. Advertising as an industry attracts the "easily-distracted professionally," the people who love to have their hands in everything. I often tell a story at my first agency where I spent the morning on a call with France about a B2B print ad, then moved to a studio for a radio recording on a retail store, then back to the agency for a website wireframe on a global brand, finally finishing the day at a film studio discussing production on a pizza tv commercial. It was such a great day, my scattered brain was quite fulfilled. To be honest, I think the "sink or swim" style of agencies often (not always, but often) lead to great mastery. But everyone does a shit job of recognizing it, both employee and employer. You know who best recognizes "mastery?" - ANOTHER employer, which is why the industry is filled with people hopping around from shop to shop.

5. Purpose - Yes, the topic du jour (or hopefully generation into infinitude.) I am not going to write yet again on the very important need to tie commerce and those involved in it to something Larger. We know people, and especially recent generations are fueled by "doing good." Also, I get a bit tired of people who chose an advertising career and then complain about being a part of the marketing process - what did you think you were getting into, exactly? However, there is a big miss. I ask many people at the foot of the mountain, "Why do you want to go into advertising?" There is always the topline, almost without thought answer of "I like business and creativity - and this is where the two meet.*" I often bypass that answer, the answer of the "undecided." Many light up on one answer, it comes down to "People fascinate me." Unfortunately, once you get into an advertising agency you find yourself thinking more about companies than people (and No, they are not the same.) Ironically, the focus on the company comes from an emphasis on the "brand." But brands don't exist. I've been in several marketing departments and advertising agencies - I always look behind the doors and in the closets and I have never seen a "brand." Brands are what people think and feel. Brands are inside people. Therefore, our focus on brands should be on people. It is shocking how little the study of people, their behavior, their interactions, their culture happen inside many advertising agencies, because it is often the initial spark that starts people down the path to working at the agencies.

Future Lockpickers

Ahhh blogging, a place to point out problems, but offer very little in the terms of solutions. Well, I do have a possibility. Again, not original, but worthy of reiterating. FIGURE OUT HOW TO ESTABLISH CULTURE WORKSHOPS WITHIN THE AGENCY STRUCTURE. I'm not talking about the awesomenss of labs being developed by every technology and creativity-based company. I am talking about simple co-op workshops that are a part of the process, rather than separate entities. Places where all people (because the silos in an agency could be reason #6) can start autonomous projects around people and culture that they take to completion and continue towards mastery. Build games for each other. Make maps. Design experiences. (This possibly means sacrificing alcohol-fueled get-togethers, as well as lectures and performances from outside others. But, I always saw those as distractions to the weaknesses of the business, rather than authentically building on the strengths.)

Oh and get rid of timesheets. 

Let me again say, I have loved working inside of agencies. The people, the immediate opportunities, the focus on sharing ideas: what a great place to be. I hope they continue to thrive. But, I worry about them falling into the trap of copying the past.

By the way, I am starting a culture workshop at the school this summer. Come by and say hello. And please give me advice. I'm looking to fail like crazy. And I'm kind of an idiot.

* Yes I just foot-noted my blog! This makes me think of a great story from Nicholas Negroponte: "When I was about 17 years old, I did very well in school in art classes. And I was determined I was going to grow up to be a sculptor. But I also did very well in math and as a consequence, I was kinda torn. In fact, when it came time to sort of make the decisions to where I was going to go to college and so on, I went to the principal. And this was a small private school so you had access to the principal and I went to the principal and I said, 'You know, I really do very well in art and I do very well in math, so I think the right thing for me to do is to go and study architecture.' And--which is in fact what I ended up doing--but he looked at me and said, 'You know, I like gray suits and I like pinstriped suits, but I really hate gray pinstriped suits.' And it took me about ten years to figure out what he was talking about. And I decided not to be a practicing architect and that, in fact, computers for me are sort of the gray suit and stripped suit mixed as I would like them I guess."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back and forth

My blogging has suffered, as Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare, etc has grown.

Life has been remarkable since I last blogged. I am going back to AAU to continue building the most amazing Creative Strategy dept in the world. More on that later.

I spent the past three weeks in SF, but I am back in Anchorage for two. Then back to SF for three, then I'll return to DRIVE Dixie and Trixie to SF, while Sam and Mary meander back.

Anyway, here are a couple pics. One is the mountain climb Mary and I did around Flattop in Anchorage. The other is a "blog exclusive" - The Cloud Nothings at The New Parish in Oakland. I saw them with JAPANDROIDS.

More, eventually?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Matanuska Glacier

Drinks at Long Rifle LodgeCam and Sam, palsAlaska Driving Mary and Sam outside Palmer, AKPlaying on the road to Matanuska GlacierMatanuska Glacier from afar
The Bridge to Matanuska GlacierThe Matanuska Glacier Guard DogThe Matanuska Glacier Guard Dog@ Matanuska Glacier@ Matanuska GlacierSam @ Matanuska Glacier
Sam sits atop @ Matanuska Glacier@ Matanuska GlacierSam climbing @ Matanuska GlacierSam @ Matanuska GlacierSam approaching an ice cave @ Matanuska GlacierSam in an Ice Cave @ Matanuska Glacier
@ Matanuska GlacierCam @ Matanuska Glacier@ Matanuska GlacierCam and Sam @ Matanuska GlacierCam @ Matanuska GlacierMary @ Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier, a set on Flickr.

One of the best walks of my life. Literally awesome. Otherworldly, even.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A very Alaskan day

Moose crossing?Cam at Iditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartMartin BuserIditarod 2013, Ceremonial Start
Lance Mackey!Lance Mackey!Iditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartWipeoutIditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod 2013, Ceremonial Start
Iditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod watchingMary enjoys the Iditarod 2013 Ceremonial StartIditarod 2013, Ceremonial StartIditarod watching
Iditarod watchingIditarod watchingLet's go for a walkBeaver playSam tags Mary with a snowballMary and Sam

A very Alaskan day, a set on Flickr.

The day started with Iditarod 2013, Ceremonial Start and then we took a walk in a snowy park where we spotted two moose.

We are a little bit more Alaskan today!