Category Archives: Influences

The Danger of Influence

From time to time I’ve included some of my influences here. Whatever your creative outlet, if you get any good at it someone is bound to ask who your influences are. Sometimes the answer is insightful, but it can also be frustrating and embarrassing. And of course the danger of influence is obsession. Continue reading

Influences: The Happiness of Pursuit

Book Cover

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The Happiness of Pursuit. I’ve previously touched on The $100 Start-Up and I’ve also enjoyed his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity. Chris’ books have the unenviable distinction of being classified as self-help books, but do not come off as such. The message is not that if you follow this method you will find happiness. Rather it presents a collection of alternatives that are worth considering. Continue reading

Good Stuff: Deconstructing Spencer McCall’s The Institute

The Institute Poster

The Institute Movie Poster

Some time back i was browsing through Netflix for something new to watch and in the Documentaries section (of which I am fond) I found The Institute which was accompanied by this vague description: Meet some of the 10,000 San Franciscans who took part in the Jejune Institute, a combination citywide art project and living game, from 2008 to 2011.

I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but it sounded interesting. Not very long into watching it I began to ask myself, “What is this that I’m watching? What is going on!?” Whatever it was it was very creative and ambitious in scope. I don’t plan to get into the regular habit of just reviewing any old film I like, but as a work of art this was inspirational and influential.

The Jejune Institute is one faction of an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) created in San Francisco in 2008. It was the creation of Jeff Hull and was part game, part public artwork. A look at some of the key players and places may be in order at this point. Continue reading

Influences: Ray Johnson and “How To Draw A Bunny”

Influences can be a funny thing sometimes. I can tell you exactly what song I was listening to when I made the decision to take up playing guitar. I don’t have a clue how I first came across the documentary film, How To Draw A Bunny, but I do know it’s how I came to learn about artist Ray Johnson. While doing some research on him, I found quite a few other people who said the same thing.

James Dean, Lucky Strike Collage

James Dean, Lucky Strike. Collage on cardboard, 1957. By Ray Johnson

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Motorcycle Repair In ProgressAbove is a current work of art in progress. It is my 1996 Triumph Thunderbird. Against my better judgement I purchased it at the end of last summer and it’s been one of the best mistakes I could make. It’s difficult to explain the way it makes me feel when it’s running well. I almost feel guilty that a material possession could bring me so much joy. Just before the end of October last year one of the carburetors gummed up and left me stranded. When I discovered the problem I knew that I couldn’t just take it to a mechanic to fix. It was something I had to at least try to do myself so that I could understand what makes it tick. This is part of the lesson that I learned from Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Before we get too carried away here, it’s important to note that this book is not about motorcycle maintenance and not about Zen Buddhism either. It is a philosophical inquiry into Quality, a problem the narrator first encountered as a professor and continues to examine during a 17-day motorcycle trip with his son, Chris. Continue reading