Archive for August, 2008

Obama’s night for the ages

Posted in political with tags , , , , on August 29, 2008 by barryshapiro

If Barak Obama loses his bid for the presidency it will not diminish one iota the extraordinary accomplishments his candidacy represents. Even if he loses in a landslide, the nation is changed forever.

Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention tonight was powerful, eloquent, focused and I believe he accomplished his stated purpose of laying his positions and his story out for all to hear and clearly understand.  But his most important speech to date was the one he delivered in Philadelphia on race in America. It was a seminal speech and I believe will have a lasting impact for generations to come. I think of it as being on a par with the Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Kennedy’s Inaugural address where he implored the nation to “ask what you can do for your country” and King’s “I Had A Dream” speech.  Still, tonight was really MUST SEE TV and an historic moment for the nation.

I am not convinced that Obama/Biden can win. I find it difficult to believe that this country elects a black man as its President. Obama said all the right things and I believe he was ‘presidential’ in his manner and his words. But even now, as I listen to American’s calling into CSPAN to comment on Obama and the speech, it is obvious that people just, as Obama said of his opponent, “don’t get it.” I have traveled all over this country, talked to people from coast to coast, and argued the issues with friends and strangers and I just don’t think he can carry the nation.

The Conventions are gigantic Infomercials, nothing more. The election process is drawn out and a bore. But Obama was right on one important point: this election is not about Barak Obama – it is about US. And We are still getting the shaft. But change is in the air and not just in the rhetoric of the Democrats.

Obama’s run for the White House is a big step in our cultural evolution. Back in 1970, Charles Reich in The Greening of America, talked about how change would come about gradually but when it did it would overtake us like a deluge. This is one of those times when the floodgates are open.

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Monday morning notes

Posted in personal, political with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by barryshapiro

Now that the Olympics are over we can get down to real and important competitions like the one I read about in this mornings paper…

Seems that a guy who goes by the moniker HOT LIXX HULAHAN has won the 2008 Air Guitar Championships, defeating 2 time champ Ochi Yosuke. This competition took place in Finland, the epicenter of all things Air Guitar. You can’t make this stuff up. While Jimmy Paige rocked Bejing, people from all over the world skipped the Olympics to be in Finland so that they could wear skin tight leather pants, sequinned satin shirts, Steven Tyler knockoff bandannas and flail their arms around in the air as if they were just like Jimmy. Wish I had been there. Why wasn’t this televised?

Now that Hurricane, I mean tropical storm, I mean tropical depression Fay has gone away, the real work begins in Florida. Cleaning up all the crab and turtle carcasses off the roads and highways. I guess these pokey animals thought the floods were a good excuse to travel and when the waters receeded they found themselves, with a lot of other stranded voyagers, stuck on US 1. Taking my morning bike ride, I must have swerved to avoid dozens of dead crabs on the side of the road. I saw people stopping traffic to move a big box turtle from the center of the highway to the safety of the grass on the side of the road.

Latest studies show that 1 of every 20 American workers is illegal. 1 in 20 is a huge number. What are these people doing? Everything. We’re to busy playing Air Guitar. Americans are getting ‘less good’ at doing things. We’re becoming more and more like the bloated, anestetized humanoids in the movie Wall-E. We eat crappy, fattening, cancer causing foods, we work more but produce less, we buy more than we can afford and we watch way too much TV and, worse still, believe whatever we see on the boob tube. After all, if they put it on television, they can’t lie to us, can they? While we are developing into a culture of overstuffed half-baked potatoes, short people from places like Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua are doing our heavy lifting. People from India and China are doing our manufacturing and technical work. People from Hong Kong are making our clothes. And they all like to come here to get ahead, get educated and make a buck. Can we get them to clean the crab carcasses from the side of the road while they are at it?

But we created American Idol so we must be the best at the”creative arts”! Oops… all those reality shows we love to watch were first created in England. And the Japanese, who actually know how to make fuel effecient luxury cars, are now the worlds leading auto makers. We’re even stealing their TV shows now.

So now you know. What are we lazy Americans to do? At least we kicked some basketball ass at the Olympics. While the Russians were blasting their way through Georgia, we were cheering for Kobe and LeBron. While the Chinese were locking up little old ladies for the criminal offense of applying for a permit to protest, we got all bent out of shape because they lip-synced some little kids voice at the opening ceremonies and we screamed bloody murder that one of their gymnasts might possibly be under-aged, like some sweatshop worker in Indonesia. We watched Michael Phelps in record numbers while the Chinese arm the Sudanese and Darfur burns. We have our priorities straight.

I am looking forward to next years Air Guitar Championships. I am getting my old leather pants let out to fit my chubbier waistline and hitting the vintage clothes store for something cool to wear, something that will really stand out. And I’ll be practicing my hip moves and finger action. I hope I don’t get a cramp.

Fruitloops for Hulahoops

Posted in personal with tags , , on August 24, 2008 by barryshapiro

I finally found an Olympic event I consider to be MUST SEE TV – Synchronized Hula Hoops. 5 pretty girls in ridiculous costumes tossing those wonderful Whammo novelty toys high in the air, around their waists, under their legs and apparently through their bodies as well. It’s amazing. I think they call it Rhythmic Gymnastics or something like that but it looks like the stuff we did when we were 9 years old only in more colorful outfits – we only wore jeans, T-shirts and PF Flyers.

Men’s basketball? Michael Phelps? Who cares? C’mon NBC… give me Olympic Synchronzed Hula Hoops any day!

Flight of the Dragonflies

Posted in personal with tags , , on August 22, 2008 by barryshapiro
Thither the phoenixes do not come flying

Thither the phoenixes do not come flying

The torrential rains of Tropical Storm Fay have passed and as the water dries up and things get back to normal I walked out my back door this morning and witnessed a miracle of nature. There are thousands of dragonflies filling the sky and fluttering in every direction. With their orange-yellow tails and slender, transparent wings moving at a mile-a-minute, they are a sight to behold.

In most native American cultures the dragonfly is a symbol of renewal and I heartily agree after 4 days shut in and nothing but dark gray skies and sheets and sheets of rain. With a bit of sun breaking through the clouds and these flying needles all around me I felt like a life form again.

In Japan, the dragonfly is the symbol of both strength and happiness. I have always admired dragonflies in Asian art and have myself tried to capture that spirit in a series of woodcuts I did a long time ago. The one at the top of this page is 12″x18″ from 1975 and entitled “Thither the phoenixes do not come flying” which was something I read in a book on Confucius. Today I feel like going out a making new dragonfly art in celebration of the flight of the dragonflies outside my door.

Have a great day everyone.

A restaurant to remember

Posted in personal with tags , , , on August 19, 2008 by barryshapiro

Years ago Travel and Leisure Magazine would publish a monthly “Restaurant to Remember” column (along with the monthly “Hotel of Distinction”). I remember them well cause I used to do illustrations for these columns and I always desired to try out the recommendations. I don’t read T&L so I don’t know if they do the column but somebody should. There are so many great spots tucked away in every city it would be great if there was a Wiki type site where people could chime in with their favorite restaurant experiences. If one already exists please turn me on to it.

Patricia and I recently had the pleasure of dining at Mila in New Orleans and the dining experince was first rate, from the service to the ambience to the presentation on the plate. Not a typical New Orleans style restaurant, they fuse classic southern cooking with an elegant continental flair. All the important ingredients are locally grown.

Mila is the brainchild of husband and wife chefs Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing. When you next go to the Big Easy, get off the beaten track and go downtown to the Pere Marquette Hotel to check this place out. The decor reminds me of something you’d find in SOHO and you’ll enjpoy going just for a drink at the bar.

Hurricane “Fey”

Posted in personal with tags , , on August 19, 2008 by barryshapiro

A lot of wind and rain but mostly much ado about nothing. I was looking forward to my first major Floridian hurricane. Visions of Key Largo dancing in my head. They even delivered my NY Times on time this morning. Those guys on the Weather Channel must really go nuts creating such a frenzy over the weather and never having it turn out the way they say it will.

“If you ain’t eatin’ Wham, you ain’t eatin’ ham!”

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , on August 18, 2008 by barryshapiro

“The purpose of (advertising), as far as I can see, is to prove to the masses that a deodorant can bring happiness, a mouthwash guarantee success and a laxative attract romance.”
-Kirk Douglas as George Phipps in
A Letter To Three Wives

As far as I can see, the purpose of television is to sell advertising and now more so than ever. If there ever was a pretense of entertaining or educating the masses it is long, long gone. The purpose of advertising is pretty much as George Phipps put back in 1949. Use this product and have a better life. Don’t use it and run the risk of having a crumby life complete with foot odor, miserable children who will never eat anything again, embarrassingly dingy clothes and to top it all off you’ll never have sex again ever.

I say this as someone who has worked in advertising for almost 35 years and continues to do so.  The difference for me is that, in the past, I would work on any project that came my way and was attached to a paycheck. Now I have the luxury of working for products that I honestly believe have some merit. Otherwise, not much has changed.

The Olympics have devolved into a made for TV event. It’s all about the advertising. How much Michael Phelps can we watch? Apparently plenty, as long as he is wedged in between ads for legal pharmaceuticals (don’t do evil steroids – do Viagra!) and movies about imaginary blood sports featuring hard core prisoners with Gatling guns attached to monster cars.

Advertising is ubitquitous in society whether we’re in New York or Bejing. Last week I went to the movies and had to watch 20 minutes of trailers for new films, as well as ads for Coke and promos for upcoming TV shows. Then I had to sit through Step Brothers. The entire experience was torture.

I love movies about advertising. I haven’t seen Mad Men because I don’t necessarily love TV shows about advertising (the exception being Bewitched, the home of McCann & Tate). One of my favorites is Mr. Mom, where Michael Keaton loses his job so his wife, Terri Garr, gets a job in advertising and lands the Schooner Tuna account. Schooner Tuna, the tuna with a heart. If you haven’t seen it I recommend it highly. You can make that a double feature with Nothing In Common with Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. That one hits the advertising nail pretty much on the head as well. Conversely, avoid  Picture Perfect with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin (6 Degrees of) Bacon at all costs – the most ridiculous portrayal of the ad world ever put on screen.

Well, I have to go now and watch some TV. It’s almost time for PTI on ESPN.