A few tabs I’ve had open forever, waiting to be shared and remarked on.
I don’t go to a lot of museums, because too often I feel like when I do, I stare at things, attempt to appreciate them, and leave not having gained much. So I was totally on the side Jason Schwartzman in this promo video for the Pacific Standard Time series of museum events happening across Southern California (full disclosure: several former coworkers worked on this as a pro-bono project).
But it also totally won me over with its points. There’s a TON of art in the world. Some of it I won’t like. That’s okay. Some of it I will. And it helps when we take a minute to learn about the who and why behind what it is we’re looking at — something I personally feel all museums, galleries and art institutions need to be better at. Not everyone has the tools to “get it” from just a rectangular canvas on a wall. But we want to! Help us, museum curators! Make art more accessible and we will come see it more! People like stories, not being left out of secret knowledge.
At the very least, I found the video charming. Maybe a little bit more so because it all takes place a couple blocks from my old apartment, along streets where I used to go for walks pretty much every night for the year before moving up here to NorCal.
This article from Grantland is over a month old, but it’s SO fascinating. Essentially, Oregon had a crappy football team, until Nike stepped in. Not by helping them play better, but by redesigning their facilities and uniforms:
The football Ducks of Oregon are something new. They didn’t get people to watch because they got good. They got good because they got people to watch. They are college sports’ undisputed champions of the 21st century’s attention economy.
So after the Cotton Bowl loss, [Nike boss Phil] Knight asked the Ducks’ coach a question, and he asked Nike’s designers a question.
He asked the coach: What do you need from me?
He asked the designers: How can we make teenagers who are good at football want to come to the University of Oregon?
The answer Knight got from the coach was an indoor practice facility. The coach got that and more. Since then, Knight has spent some $300 million on stadium additions, luxury boxes, and palatial locker rooms. All of these things obviously are on the list of reasons Oregon’s football team got good.
But back in Beaverton, the Nike designers did their part, using the Ducks program as part laboratory, part showroom.
It’s a glorious chicken-and-egg problem, totally turned on its head by smart design, and a really non-traditional case study on of the power of sexy packaging. It certainly gave me a new reason to respect how incredibly smart the Nike team is at solving problems creatively.
Talent in sports is the equivalent of ‘influencers’ in any other market, and if you have strong visual style, you just might stand out enough to interest the people who matter most. Attract the right small core group, and the rest follows from there. Pretty brilliant.
Thought I had seen this William Gibson quote, or at least part of it, somewhere before, and it turned up this week in a post by BBH labs:
“Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilization in the previous two centuries. They were where industrial civilization went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies. Each one would have a dress code, characteristic forms of artistic expression, a substance or substances of choice, and a set of sexual values at odds with those of the culture at large… But they became extinct…. We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters.”~ William Gibson, All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999)
I love this for two reasons.
One, it seems to accurately describe the odd problem we’re having more and more, which Patton Oswalt recently described in Wired as “etewaf” — Everything That Ever Was, Available Forever. Nothing has time to gestate and get cool, because too many people are spending their whole lives scouring for the next cool thing.
Two, I feel like that person sometimes. Scouring the web, the world, the recesses of my brain for bits of newness or pithy factoids or fresh perspectives that just aren’t there. Infinite information isn’t always the road to inspiration; it’s often limits that inspire greatness, not limitlessness.
Once, I saw Irvin Kershner, director of Empire Strikes Back, doing a Q&A after a screening at the Arclight in Hollywood. This was post-prequels. He was taking questions about behind-the-scenes stuff like making Yoda work, and someone asked him what he thought of the new movies. He tactfully dodged, and said something to the effect of, “You know, it’s because we were so limited in what we could do with Yoda that we had to work so hard to give him a personality. That was the only way to make him a believable character. When you’re unlimited in what you can do, you spend less time thinking about what you should do. It’s often the limits that push you to make great art.” (I may be paraphrasing or making that pithier than it was when he said it, but it’s a good point all the same.)
It may be worth noting that he passed away a few months ago. The true limit of us all.
Did I mention I’m turning 30 in a few days? A good a time as any to focus less on what I can do, and more on what I should. Like write more. Figure out what I’m doing to celebrate this pivotal moment in my life. And figure out which limits will push me to make something great out of this year to come.