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    May 18, 2015

    dave grammy

    I’m starting to think Letterman’s booker is not going to call…

    I was 19 years old when I got off the proverbial boat from my native France, landing in the port of New York City in order to attend Parsons’ School of Design‘s Photography program, which I would quit after just one session so as to move my images around to NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts in the Film department. In between those dark rooms and even darker rooms, I would come to learn most of what a rosey-cheeked French boy would have to in order to fit in with these American teenagers from my context: getting used to bagels, Kools and tightly fitting baseball caps but above all, television…

    See, I wasn’t exactly a friend-magnet back then, with one notable exception, and spent a LOT of time alone, walking and observing the streets, getting used to the subtleties of paying for sex in the meatpacking district and staying up late upon my return in front of the colorful glowing tube to watch what this marvelous culture, of which I only heretofore knew about in terms of Miles Davis and Converse All-Stars, had to offer. That is when, after a painfully long lead-in addiction to Arsenio Hall, I was introduced in September of 1989 to the gift that was, and is, Mr. David Letterman. This was the first show I saw:

    Of course, I didn’t understand most of his references, mine being mostly cigarette and beret-driven, but to start any form of televised entertainment with a list of the Top Ten numbers between One and Ten blew my mind. I don’t want to say literally blew my mind but close enough. Every single number he read had me in bewildered stitches, and not just because the bit was that funny but because I couldn’t believe this was actually being televised! The fact that it wasn’t really a joke at all, something that can perhaps be said about the whole run of the show, rather simply a compendium of disparate characters, circumstances and words never before put together, was the incredible thing about it. As I sat through that show, devouring another American success story with a glass of whole milk and almost every night of the last 26 years, give or take a vacation, I have been in awe of this man’s pioneering spirit in the arena of buffoonery. He didn’t seem to simply want to amuse us, he needed to amuse himself, and the confidence required to do that in front of people was astounding to me, unknown really, especially in a man who seemed to seek no other form of fame than that lent by that daily hour, and even-so, reluctantly.

    As a film student, I was starting to think of people who did things I liked or loved as other, people like Orson Welles, John Williams or Gordon Willis, whether legends or craftsmen, they seemed untouchable. Not so with Dave. First of all, Dave… What kind of an on-screen name is that for someone I should aspire to be! But that was never his pitch, never his aim. He seemed much more excited in setting a table, summoning people he thought interesting to it and then invited us in, on equal footing with anyone in his chair. That’s why when he made fun of Madonna…

    we were with him. When Cher called him an asshole…

    we were with him. And, most significantly to me in my young years, when Sandra Bernhard manically flirted on the air…

    my lord, was I WITH him! And of course when, quite a few Septembers later, the lights came up on Dave without an opening credit sequence…

    we were with him all the way, now and forever, like Cats. And when Ted Kopple interviewed him about that moment…

    that “I’m not sure” is heartbreaking… Perhaps because we felt as he did, not sure of anything, really, anymore.

    We knew then, as we know now, that Dave is not only a simple clown dipping his be-Alka-Seltzered body into a human-sized cylinder of water, but a thoughtful man, one who might even pass his own test of being able to take a cross country road trip with and come out better on the other end. When I watched him, I didn’t just seek mindless amusement, those who did would soon switch to Leno, I wanted to see my own strange perspectives, my own creativity, my own shamelessness, somehow represented before a national audience, as if to say “did you see Dave last night? That’s how I feel all the time!” Surely not as articulate, witty or humble as his, our generation’s muddled vision had finally found its champion, even better because he desired to represent no one but himself. Dave pointed the way, my whole American life, 26 years running, to a perspective of existence that included, nay demanded, irony, a quality able to remove ourselves from the misery we all feel and into a temporary state of discerning spectatorship, enabled by those before he, from Twain to Carlin, to laugh at everything. For that perspective, I and millions of us owe him an ENORMOUS debt of gratitude. Without that perspective, borrowed and then torn from the pages of another gap-toothed hero in Mad Magazine and thrown on television, there is no Funny or Die, there is no Tim and Eric, there is no Kimmy Schmidt. He provided a safe doorway to subversion.

    Through him, I was introduced to Bill Murray, to Steve Martin, to Andy Kaufman and Regis Philbin. Thanks to him, I felt welcomed into the American psyche. Thanks to him, I grew up to accept weirdness as a pro, not a con. Which is why I was thankfully ready to subsequently accept Larry David, Garry Shandling and Jon Stewart into my life. He upped the quality of my viewership from mere passive occupation to an almost active form of craft, that which demands knowledge and understanding in its audience, without which The Wire might just have been a show about a wire.

    As I moved to Italy a couple of years ago and only able to watch snippets on the YouTube which present only the highlights chosen by the staff, I miss the segments in which Dave truly shines, the in-between moments, the non-sequiturs, the silences, the mistakes, the times in which Dave dares put his discomfort on display, even at the more mainstream 11:30 hour, because being a host is being human, being a host is not what he does, it’s who he is. And all my adult life I dreamt that I might do something good enough, popular enough or odd enough to warrant my phone to ring with an invitation to that chair and a guest at his party, I would have loved to look him in the eye and said:

    Thank you Dave for giving us more than a voice but a language with which to speak, thank you for being even a reluctant patron-saint to the man and woman child in all of us, we will forever be grateful.

    dave smile

    November 24, 2014


    Walking as I ususally do on a Monday afternoon, gingerly up from Via Peschiere Vechie in my adopted town of Bologna where I had just picked up my weekly supply of cheese and thinly-sliced salumi, as per my Italian head-of-household job description, I felt a strange sensation wash over me as I approached the car, where Gina was waiting. I turned around and could have sworn I was seeing the city fold back on top of me, inception-style. I felt SO dizzy, I nearly fell over. As I got into the car and told my loving wife, the world kept turning faster and faster. Not enough sugar in my system? Impossible. Walking too fast in the cold? I don’t see how. The freaky think is that I felt no pain, anywhere. Prone as I am to Ophthalmic Migraines, which blur my vision for an hour before slamming into a pounding headache that can last for twelve, I am used to my eyes fucking with my head but this was different… Coincidentally, we were picking up the kids from school at that time and bringing our youngest (Leeloo, 8) to a nearby public hospital for an ecography long-scheduled to check on stomach pains she’d been having and when we arrived, after a few minutes of sinewy roads, I was not feeling well at all and had to lie down over multiple chairs in the waiting room, trying to breathe through what was increasingly becoming an episode of sorts. As Gina and the kids went into their test room, I attempted not to panic, which is really hard to do when you’re hyper-ventilating in a hospital. A few seconds later, I felt a hand grabbing my arm, which was covering my eyes, and saw two doctors, furrowed-browed, bending over me and asking if I was ok. I was not ok and they could see it, apparently. They called emergency personnel.

    Now, all this is happening in Italian, not my mother tongue and which I have only really so far properly acquired the all-important vocabularies of food and bathroom usage so a lot of what is going on, notwithstanding the increasingly whirling black hole my brain seems intent on taking me through, does not compute. I know that I went on a short ambulance ride, from one side of the hospital to another I suppose, to find myself alone, my family still in the test room, and in a wheelchair, trying to describe my symptoms to a busy triage nurse: “Gira la testa!” “Vertigino” “Non posso vederre qualcosa!”(Head spinning! Vertigo! I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!) were some of my UN translator-grade gems I believe. They wrote it all down and just when I thought I was in good hands, irony of all ironies, I could feel my body completely tensing up. That is something I had never felt before and do not want to ever feel again, a tension so acute that it forced my hands into lobster claw shapes, which I could not control! Panic? Yeah, Panic. The nurse had turned her back to enter my data and was unaware of what was happening until I saw, out of the corner of my eye, Gina and the kids just entering the building, looking frantically left and right for me, and I yelled GINAAAAA! She saw me with my hands up and rushed over. At this point, I thought I was having a stroke as my entire body was stiff and my arms were stuck up in the air. She called the nurse who gave me oxygen and explained that I was having a tachycardia attack, which tends to force the body into this shape. Great. Thankfully, after a few minutes, I calmed down enough… for the vomiting to begin. Fantastic.

    I will gloss over the next few hours of visual tests, vomiting, cat scan, vomiting, blood vessel-searching, vomiting, neurological exercises, vomiting… I was finally told to shut my eyes for the foreseeable future and that I would be kept at the hospital for a few days under observation…


    At this point, I could no longer see where I was or where I was going. Since I had been woozy since the school pickup, I didn’t even really know where in town, if in town, this hospital was and I found it really confusing to not even be able to imagine where, just even so that I could have something concrete to think about. I was transferred from wheelchair to wheelbed and taken somewhere, a room? A hallway? I had no idea. It was full of people certainly, old people screaming in Italian. Competent nurses, I suppose, tended to me, fit me with an I.V. but all I could imagine was the hospital in Born On The Fourth Of July where Ron Kovic (lil’ Tommy Cruise) is transferred after coming back and finds a leaky, rat-infested slum in which you are taken care of when there’s time. I do not recommend this imagery if you ever find yourself sight-less in a foreign hospital.


    The next three days were a complete blur (see what I did there? Ugh, I’m tired…) The whole pee-in-a-bucket/vomit-in-another cycle was a truly wonderful experience but the best part was really at night when my roommates decided to scream for the nurses at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. “AIUTO! SIGNORA!!” was the chorus I was treated to nightly, from who knows how many members in this choir, I still had NO idea where I was! Of course, Gina came to see me during visiting hours and that was great help, especially when she brought the kids a couple of days later. From what they would tell me, with an eye mask on, a scruffy and pale face and sunken demeanor in my reclined bed, I did not look so fresh. So they both started crying on my bed as if this was to be the last time they would see their papa… I reassured them that I just had a bad headache and that there was nothing to worry about. Then my son asked:

    Is this how God punishes atheists?

    I let out such a loud laugh, my first since the whole thing began, that he saw that I was ok. I told him that no, it was just an inflammation in the eighth nerve behind my ear canal, not divine punishment. And although I am slightly disappointed that my attempt at secular upbringing has obviously failed, I was indeed told that I have Vestibular Neuritis, an infection of the aforementioned nerve which can supress one’s sense of equilibrium within a few minutes, as it did me. Just stunning. I was told that with proper treatment and diligent rehabilitation, I would be back to normal in about a month.

    So I stayed in there, Gina brought me some headphones and I discovered, and easily got up to date with, Serial, slowly took off my mask and even, on the last day, got reacquainted with solid foods. Italian hospital food, I must tell you, even though I only had the strength to take a bite or two, was fucking DELICIOUS. Risotto? Grana mashed potatoes?! Made me want to live again!


    Finally, on Friday and after an extensive new battery of tests, they told me that I could do at home anything they were doing here and that I could go if I wanted. I wanted. Now armed with brand new emergency room vocabulary, I slowly and carefully packed my bag, waiting for Gina to pick me up. I asked for whatever checkout papers I needed so that she could review them before signing and paying and after about two hours, they came. Except, no bill, just prescriptions… Yup, five days in the hospital, tests, food, even a cat scan, all for zero dollars. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether this burden borne by the government, and most certainly dragging it down, is worth the ease of care but I must say, when you’re caught in the middle, it’s hard to argue with it.

    I cannot even explain the roller coaster that was the ride back home but I have now returned, still dizzy and scheduling an MRI for tomorrow so that I am absolutely sure that there is no neurological damage but I am told the extreme symptoms should subdue this week to transition into a milder version for the next two and finally disappear by the end of December. You might have noticed that perhaps my spelling, syntax or grammar is not quite up to snuff and now you know why… All in all, this should be no biggie and I will be back delivering cured meats and macerated grapes to my stomach soon, God willing…

    September 22, 2014


    I don’t remember ever hearing music in my house when I was a kid, probably because my parents were both in the music business and most likely just needed silence when they got home, but it meant that if I wanted to know what was out there, what was good in a time without MTV (because I was in France) or the radio (because French radio SUCKED before Nova!) I had to seek it out for myself. So, like all of us, it was through my friends’ Walkman (Walkmen? Walkmans?) and incessant trips to the record store that I would develop personal taste, a journey that took years, ongoing still by way of continual clicking on those “albums liked by people who bought what you bought,” and discovering artists liable to blow my mind. It’s those albums I was thinking about yesterday while driving the kids to school and blasting some Rufus a bit too loud for the morning commute, wondering which ones made me more than merely pay attention or bob my head but take a turn into a musical genre, or sub-genre, I hadn’t even thought about before. Each album also had one track, one song that defined the genre that baited me to look for more of its kind, landing mostly on imitators, who would, for a time, quench the thirst provoked by the original track.

    So I dug into my iTunes library and found all of these, not in order of release but the order I remember discovering them. These are not necessarily my favorites albums of all time, or even my favorites from that particular artist, simply the ones that were important in my life, that, for better or worse, changed to way I listen to music:

    1. Big Band and Quartet In Concert (Live) – Thelonious Monk
    Standout Track: I Mean You

    As a boy growing up in France in a family of musicians, classical was pretty much the only music I heard being played, if any, when visiting my grandparents or coming home from school, catching my mom in a particularly melancolic mood. But one day, when I was eleven and on a playdate at a friend’s house, I heard strange sounds coming from the living room. His dad had put on a record by Thelonious Monk… The first notes of I Mean You completely capturing my imagination and making me just sit there, as I recall, not paying attention to whatever game my friend and I were in the middle of. Listen to it above and tell me that woulnd’t stop you dead in your tracks if that was the first jazz you ever heard. It certainly did me in. When I came home, I asked my dad about Monk and he told me he listened to a lot of it when he was a kid growing up in Tunis. The ostensibly unsure phrasing, the tentative chord progression, the grunts you hear through the crackle of the live recording all contributed to making me feel that there was a human being under all that music, a mind unlike any other I had heard until then. This album is what started my love affair with jazz, a complicated love affair… One that led me to Bill Evans, Andrew Hill, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane and more questions about the intent and role of music.

    2. The Dude – Quincy Jones
    Standout Track: Ai No Corrida

    Before I knew there was a Michael Jackson, I knew there was a Quincy Jones. See, in France, they didn’t bother marketing Off The Wall too much and so we weren’t aware that the world of popular music was already changing on the U.S. side thanks to the youngest Jackson brothers but we knew that a jazz trumpeter, an arranger who worked with Gil Evans and had his own big band was, for some reason, turning his attention to R&B. The song we first heard from him at house parties was Ai No Corrida, a song that apparently wasn’t a big hit here, since my wife, a child of the eighties had never heard of it and looked at me weird when I first put it on. With its crescendo intro and disco-influenced beat, it is all we could talk about in Paris in 1981, even though some of us wondered where the jazz had gone, and if it would ever be back. The Dude was chockfull of marvels, leading to us to the discovery of the slow jam in One Hundred Ways, the fact that the harmonica was an instrument that could be played outside of atrocious village dances we knew well in the south of france on Velas, and, last but not least, that this was the album that eventually made the way for James Ingram, Michael McDonald, Angela Winbush, Patti Austin and, most importantly, the incredible songwriting talents of a certain Rod Temperton

    3. Off the Wall – Michael Jackson
    Standout Track: Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough

    Before Thriller, this album captured my imagination because it felt like a story being told along the songs on its track list. I remember how important song intros were to us, to the point of some friends making mixtapes of intros only and exchanging them in the school yard to listen to and go putaaaain! (our equivalent of daaaamn!) That was especially true of Off The Wall. Those intros just killed and built up so incredibly from one track to the next, we were in heaven. And we could also hear the real band, a hint that Quincy the musician was still there, behind the board, guarding the jazz foundation of R&B against the coming onslaught of moogs and other synths that had started to appear and which we didn’t see a future for. I had heard Earth, Wind & Fire by that time, of course, but Off The Wall was the first album that could make me dance while at the same time having heart, I mean I cried SO HARD with She’s Out Of My Life, I couldn’t believe music could be that powerful! You know you did too, I can see you! That album was the first that made me understand that “modern” music might be important, not just those of the aging giants that Monk had introduced me to, that there was something about Michael Jackson that felt momentous. Strangely, after Off The Wall, i went looking for more of this funky R&B and landed mostly on groups like Delegation and Starpoint who barely fit the bill but were enough until I discovered…

    4. Guardian of the Light – George Duke
    Standout Track: Reach Out

    And so, I eventually went searching for other musicians who had started in jazz and stumbled upon the infectious rhythms of soul and R&B. One such giant, for me, became George Duke. A jazz pianist who had worked with everyone from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa and who eventually fused all his musical influences and created a sort of space-bossa-funk that I had never heard before. If I had been furious to even detect an electronic instrument steal the spotlight from an acoustic one, George Duke convinced me my fears were for naught as the intro to Reach Out boomed over the new stereo in my room with the bass levels crancked way up. Most incredibly, his music was fun. Yeah, fun! That sounds weird to say and write but so much music, especially in jazz, takes itself so seriously and demands so much seriousness in the listener that his became a refreshing pleasure. On some tracks, you could actually hear the party in the studio, you could imagine the improvs that would lead into the improbable solos on the KeyTar, you could transport yourself there, with them, dancing with the backup singers and repeating the coda into the night! And the best thing was that there is a horn section in there too, even a string section, keeping it all in check, within a world I could understand. Yes, I realize I’m a white French boy listening to George Duke in Paris but his amazing voice, that falsetto, made it ok, so ok that this became my favorite kind of music, to this day, a love vindicated by what Daft Punk came to do with it later. On the back on Mr. Duke, I went and basked in the glory of the funk with Don Blackman, Chaka Khan, Bernard Wright and Billy Paul.

    5. The Nightfly – Donald Fagen
    Standout Track: Maxine

    I didn’t even know who Steely Dan was, let alone recognize its lead singer, but I was intrigued by this album cover when I first saw it in the crates at the store. By this time, my ears surrounded at all time by jazz, soul and R&B, a white guy on a cover in the jazz section was intriguing. My best friend and I asked the guy at the listening station to put it on and when the first track, I.G.Y., came on, our eyes widened, looking at each other as if a U.F.O. had landed. There was a string section here too, a Fender Rhodes, a rhythm section we knew from blues but the rest sounded so, well, clean. Most of what we liked until then had a rough quality to the recordings, the arrangements, the playing, even the voicings, but this was different. And the melodies, wow the melodies… they were just so intricate. Now, remember that in most of these albums we didn’t understand a thing any of these artists said, English was still an approximate language to us, at best. We understood “baby,” “love,” and “girl” but that was about it so we could only really judge these albums on a musical level. That’s why when the piano intro of Maxine came on in fourth position, the last track we were allowed to hear at the listening station, and at 1:24 when Donald comes out of the harmony singing “Mexico City…” we damn well lost our minds. It may sound today, with a more complete musical history behind me, like mere lounge music but to us, this was modern jazz, something we, as budding musicians, had been trying to uncover ourselves. That was a BIG deal. And, of course, now followed Steely Dan became part of the curriculum as well as Toto, Joe Jackson and, inevitably, Christopher Cross.


    September 8, 2014

    Regardless of where you are sitting now, reading this mindless drivel, it is tough to deny the possibility of a god getting angry enough to want to wipe us out through either malevolent weather or the commission of another album to Fabolous; we certainly deserve it. Which got me thinking about how easy it would be to expunge what is widely considered to be a state-of-the-art species from the surface of its planet. After all we’ve built, thought, imagined, conjectured … After the quest for fire, the wheel, indoor plumbing, and Windows 95 … After Saul of Tarsus, Pythagoras, Hegel, and Bernard- Henri Levy … After the Lascaux cave drawings, the Renaissance, Andy Warhol, and Dash Snow … After Mozart, W.C. Handy, Prince, and Death Cab For Cutie … After the Bronze Age, metallurgy, manufacturing, and a million pieces of crap from China … After butter, margarine, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and then butter again … After the crusades, the world wars, the gulf wars, and the east coast/west coast rap wars … After vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, and Klondike bars … After The Great Train Robbery, Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash … After the tripalium, the stool, the chair, and the ottoman … After stereo, surround sound, THX, and twenty-two point two … After personal, local, global, and selective means of distribution … After bikes, cars, planes, and sub- orbital spaceships … After Abraham, Mahomet, Jesus, and Oprah … After lobotomy, penicillin, brain surgery, and extreme makeovers (non-home edition) … After Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Zac Efron … After basic, pascal, C++, and iOS … After straight, gay, bi, and polyamorous … After shadow puppets, radio, television, and Disney digital 3-D… After red, blue, green, and yellow … After Paris, London, New York, and Brussels … After dirt roads, paved roads, highways, and skyways … After silver, gold, diamonds, and unobtanium … After Mies van der Rohe, Wright, Herzog, and de Meuron … After mancala, Monopoly, Simon, and Angry Birds … After Howdy Doody, Eight Is Enough, Seinfeld, and Kardashians … After The Gospel of Thomas, The Old Man and The Sea, The Fountainhead, and Harry Potter … After acquaintances, friendships, relationships, and “Likes” … After doing it in the sink, in the missionary position, in the ass, and in a nun’s habit … After rocks, the abacus, HP scientific calculators, and Excel … After Lisa, Macintosh, MacBook, and the iPad … After Letterman, Snyder, O’Brien, and Fallon … After Ma Bell, New York Telephone, AT&T and Skype … After petroleum, corn, electricity, and continuously charged magnetic plates … After bread, tomatoes, high fructose corn syrup, and garlic foam with a side of beet pulp … After the Doric, the Corinthian, the Romanesque, and the steel … After poppies, pot, crack, and World of Warcraft … To think that it could all be erased with one hurling meteor or continued carelessness is at once frightening as well as a balancing reminder of our own frailty.

    Indeed, with incandescent space matter out of our control, all we have to manage are the shifts in supervision, or at least to believe that a watchful eye stands guard, somewhere, in case we fail to meet our commitment to reasonably steward our lives and planet through growth and, inevitably, completion.

    But I do not believe. Nay, I refuse to believe in any presumed babysitter, handsomely paid by the millennia to make sure that we do not run with scissors. Name it what you will, whether god, fate, destiny, or optimism, this caretaker demands a leap of faith in a process external that I am unwilling to deliver. Not that I stand against the romantic appeal of faith, for I too want to feel the force, I too want to believe in magic, but with so much still undiscovered in the world of the seen, it seems a tad brash to outsource so quickly to the merely inferred. It is in fact a tremendous affront to our evolving natural abilities to unashamedly search for answers in other worlds when this one lays beneath our feet, daily, waiting, fertile. The mere action of reaching for explanations to what we currently cannot understand betrays impatience more than it does a widely presumed human need for something greater than itself. There is no doubt that a void exists between inner and outer, between seen and invisible, between the questions and the answers, but doesn’t it behoove us to search for filler material where we can see it, test it, touch it? We are not so helpless, you and I, as to have to resort to the unseen at every undiscovered corner, are we? Even as every fantasy film baits us to believe in a childish attempt to excuse our natural inclination for delegating responsibility, we must trust ourselves to take in our hands the decisions to make within, without compunction, regret, or doubt.

    Faith is implicit belief. Faith is the assumption that one can do without knowledge to accept validity. Faith is complete and utter trust and confidence whose most successful implementation, religion, forms but the tip of the murderous iceberg. Faith is something in which we humans actually do not have much of a choice since, as a matter of observation, only the past and present are fact, and we depend on faith to supply a better tomorrow. But is it reasonable to merely hope for the best? Is there nothing we can do?

    Faith is generally understood to be an outwardly directed sentiment; you have faith in something else, faith in god, faith in destiny, faith in your friends or co-workers, et cetera. We talk a lot about having faith in our own abilities, of course, yet most tend to regard themselves as unfit to judge their own worthiness, which is why we often rely on others to assess whether or not we are indeed deserving.

    That is a misconstrued calculation.


    September 1, 2014

    Yep, today is my kids’ first day back (that’s them on today’s theaptCOVER to the left) and dang it if I don’t feel even more nervous than they do! See, I’ve always have a bit of a problem with education systems because whether you started with Aristotle, John Berger, or me, discovering new ways of seeing inevitably leads to regrets about not having started earlier. I realized my need to personally structure my chaotic world at thirty-eight years old, and I can tell you that not a Seinfeld marathon goes by that I don’t think about the squandered years spent dismissing my self. Youthfully enticed, I might have glimpsed a road, if unlit, that led to curiosities beyond standardized literacy. If only there was an established system that taught humans, as soon as they are able to learn, the value of consideration, the value of perspective, the value of understanding before diving into other knowledge. What’s that? Schooling, you say? I don’t think so. Schools scare the shit out of me. I cannot enter a classroom or any institution of lower or supposedly higher education without feeling pressured to homogenize, comply, and regurgitate. Schools seem to have devolved from the Athenian ideal of elevating the mind, body, and imagination of its fifth-century BCE students to the modern one of hoping they choose the correct answer out of the multiple choices lest they be left behind. Plato would not be happy.

    Since I have generously been allowed to participate in the raising of two children for the purpose of seeing how quickly I can fuck them up (at least that’s the only reason I can figure), education is on my mind every day as a much broader matter than the mere schooling which seems to solely concern itself with advancement. Education, in stark contrast, intersects with creativity, vision, development, intellectual awareness, emotional relationships, and ability; it goes hand in hand with being a social animal. And so, when it comes to my growing firstborn, Zoel, I do wonder upon every new word, point of view, and attitude, wondering how he learns, how he digests, and how he assimilates, attentive to the structure before it is filled with what will soon be forgotten to the profit of culture, the reason why I am not as concerned with what he learns. Whether you remember what year Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands does not matter as much as the reasons why you acquired that knowledge, whether you were made to wonder and eventually care about history, and whether that interest for the past gave renewed clarity to the present and, in turn, inspired your vision for the future. The platform is extraordinarily more important than its content, which is why I have a problem with the educational system as it stands, for it merely schools us, mostly checks our ability to remember.

    Schooling does not test for what is the most important part of knowledge, the acquiring. Isn’t that the case with most things in life? Aren’t journeys, in the end, often more significant than where they lead? Why then are parents so surprised to hear from educators that life at home greatly impacts their child in school? They are shocked, shocked that their progeny might also need familial direction, not to say homework but a rich cultural environment from which to draw. How could that possibly be a revelation? Well, because some believe that most products and services have already been devised, priced, and can be readily bought, without a second thought given to individual examination. If you feel this way, as indeed most do in this western world, why should schooling be any different? Why shouldn’t we be able to rely, much like we do on ten dollars buying two hours of entertainment, on two hundred and fifty thousand buying eighteen years of instruction which, in turn, allows us to lay back while the knowledge supposedly enters our children’s charming little brains? We should not and we cannot, because each human brain simply does not assimilate information in exactly the same way, and it is up to us, the guardians, to know their steez. We keep sending our kids to schools with shelves full of awards, in good standing, renowned, Ivy League, private, or charter schools without ever really wondering if the method fits the subject.

    This was always a point of contention in my own life because I was not just the class clown, which would have been fine enough for my hoping-to-be-proud parents, but also a disrupter of schools. So much so that just about every year, I was expelled from one and had to start anew in another. From good schools to worse schools, to schools for troublemakers and, finally, to schools for kids that nobody else wanted, a journey culminating with a recommendation to a Parisian establishment of great distinction named Charlemagne. With a reputation for being able to break any kid, it would be my last resort, since they took in anyone with a less-than-glorious past, anyone on whom other institutions and parents had given up, restoring them back, by some brutal magic, to the good graces of society. To this last-chance academy, I was not even accepted. The only alternative for Jewish parents out of options was to let another people’s god decide what should be done with me, specifically by sending me to Catholic boarding school, which was upsetting to say the least.

    June 14, 2014

    Click for details

    Today is the day of reckoning pre-ordering and since I know you’ve heard about them enough, the book, the EP, the Audiobook… here are the links to the goods, I truly hope you like what you read and hear…

    all of it on iTunes
    the book on kindle
    the music on amazon


    For your trouble and all the excellent word of mouth you’ll help me with (right?), here are the first two chapters of the Audiobook version of The Considered Life. Well, two chapters and a warning…

    There will be more goodies coming in the two until actual release july first so come back often! And have a considered weekend!

    May 26, 2014

    I’m not sure how I got pulled into “The Best of Christopher Hitchens” this weekend but damn if I won’t pull you in with me! Yes, I am in much agreement with the dearly missed departed but I envy most of all anyone with the capacity to retain such knowledge at their fingertips so as to appropriately fire them, at the right moment, hence propel understanding. Whether you agree with the man or not (and I do,) you must give him that.

    I will not attempt at this time to relay or discuss my agreement with the humanist thesis, there will be much time for that when The Considered Life drops into your iBookStore and Amazons on July 1st… Until then, a brilliant monday morning palate cleanser…

    part one:

    part two:

    part three:

    part four:


    January 10, 2014

    for as long as i can remember, i have been ambivalent about the value of “inspiration.” ambivalent in that i believe it to be both counter-intuitive and ineffective. my experiences in the design industry (just about 15 years running) have been filled to the brim with people relying on “inspiration boards,” “inspirational quotes” and “role models” to get them to a creativity level suppposedly unattainable without.

    i call poppycock.

    you want quotes? ok, here are a couple:

    “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”
    Chuck Close


    “Writer’s block is a phony, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.”
    Jerry Seinfeld

    that pretty much sums up how i feel about the relatively mundane observations of mr. seth godin, the incessant and convoluted groupings of dissonant pinterest boards and the megachurch of inspiration, TED, nicely taken down a notch by benjamin bratton above. easy RTs, not much else. it all feels like astrology, purposefully vague yet targeted at an audience who would recognize themselves or their situation in any number of standardized behaviors to erroneously conclude that, because of said self-identification, it must be the truth about them. it is not, because there is no truth about us, merely, at best, a series of evolving facts that can indeed be observed and analyzed but in which “inspiration” plays little part. the problem with elevating inspiration to not only art but currency, is that it is worse than harmful for it promotes stagnancy. doing something wrong is better, i would argue, than being impressed by the words or actions of another and doing nothing with them, which is unfortunately the most common consequence of inspiration. a couple of friends who have been lucky enough to grace the TED stage in the past have found it to be a wonderful addition to their business card, a fortuitous tool in casting a wider net which might catch the ear of those who might then take action but those returns are rare, the oft-cited perspiration, supposedly the necessary companion of inspiration, not to be found anywhere.

    and that is why we need less insight and more doing in garages, bedrooms, community centers and labs, anonymously, until something finally emerges that is worth showing off; we need more doing and failing in silence so that, maybe, one day, success may be met; we need less talking about how somebody else’s doing might help mine, something that almost never happens. inspiration is something that can only happen on your own terms; to paraphrase one charles foster kane, those are the only terms anyone ever knows. at first defined to mean “divine guidance,” we certainly should not confuse photographers, politicians, designers and ceos with gods in the name of inspiration and instead seek within for transcendent intuition; for that is what it is, isn’t it? intuition? a much better word than “inspiration” for it involves us in the process, it renders it internal and not merely observational. in a rare move, i’m going to go against peter cetera in this instance and rebut that I’M the inspiration…

    and so, for quote whores (yeah, i’m kinda one too…) let me suggest this last one, reminded to me by this morning’s impromptu criterion re-viewing of truffaut’s the soft skin in which the main character cites André Gide‘s last words: “I offer no doctrine, I do not offer advice and beat a hasty retreat from arguments. but I know that some today are searching and don’t know where to place their trust. to them I say, trust those who seek the truth, beware of those who have found it, question everything but never doubt yourselves.”

    go forth with a productive weekend to you good sirs and ladies!

    December 31, 2013


    it’s lovely to realize that the last of something is always arguably followed by the beginning of something else, a principle i certainly count on in order to wake up after so much proseco. and it is the least i wish for you tomorrow morning, to affect rebirth, to will it, not simply wait for it. the future is a decision, not an inevitability, we make it happen, as we must try to for the next 365 days, more if we wish.

    i and the entire theaptFAMILY thanks you for your love and support this year as we do not count on it for next, rather we intend to earn it. see you there and happy new year celebration!

    November 11, 2013

    i am no dawkins fan boy but it’s always amazing to me how even people with 75 books under their belts do not know how to argue a point without metaphors or subject changes. case in belabored point, mr. chopra, who does not seem to understand that words mean things and should be used to structure strings of evocative arguments in search of a point in order to express opinion, otherwise know as an “argument.” he prefers here to confound his audience with what is correctly characterized by his “opponent” as a word salad. it is all a little disconcerting that this man has the ear of so many…

    October 25, 2013

    yeah, pretty much. as i close my suitcase and am about to board the taxi to the airplane to the layover to the second airplane that will, 12 hours from now, land once again in new york city, i feel ambivalent in this, my first return to my adopted city since we decided to venture out and move, for now, to bologna, italy. that was a long sentence. even longer emotions are now running through my mind.

    pretty much.

    first landing there in 1989 and leaving just a few months ago in july 2013. that’s 24 years in new york, the last four of which were mostly spent up the hudson, attempting a trial separation from the place that gave me everything, an identity, friendships, a few careers, a family for reasons of attempting to make the heart grow fronder? maybe? but upon seeing the film above, i was reminded of why i am now feeling trepidation about returning. after so many years, i grew tired, not of the “new york” that is meant when people exclaim that they “love this place,” meaning that they usually have just seen some expression of personality so extravagant or thoughtful that they surmise it could only happen in a society as permissive as that of the big apple; no i love that “new york” too. what i grew tired of is indeed the too-well-hidden mass loneliness that we all feel there, whether friended, four-squared, liked, wined or dined twenty-four hours a day. we all feel it, not painfully enough to make most of us leave, but insistent enough that it catches us in rare moments of calm, those moments we should cherish but so seldom have the opportunity to becuase of all the other opportunities we assume we’d lose if we did. thank iPhones for distracting us because otherwise, the lines at the salad bar would be filled with people cry-walking their way to the cash register…

    that loneliness is not melancholy, neither regret nor even real sadness, just the consequence of the realization that at the end of the meeting, date or week, it is only on ourselves that we can rely to make anything meaningful, to go anywhere interesting, and even then not so much. that’s not a bad thing, this gradual awakening to self-reliance is actually rather fantastic but it sure feels lonely to have to do it all for ourselves, by ourselves, in one hell of a crowded room in which we sadly feel obligated to get wherever we’re going before the next person grabs the place in line. we don’t have to, of course, it’s just a feeling but man, what a feeling…

    i’m not looking forward to even a hint of that feeling as i cross the bridge back into the city later today. what i am looking for, however, is seeing my friends, my family, my balthazar maitre d’, and pretend, if only for a few days, that i too am an “important” part of the fabric of the greatest city in the world. well, that and avocados, mixed nuts, lotion tissues, cap-n-crunch, professionalism, efficiency, customer-centric retail, legal pads, 1% milk, salt and vinegar chips, bagels, home garbage collection, ziplock bags, punctuality, sushi, cashew butter and, of course, freedom, none of which are readily available in my country of temporary exile…

    i’ll see you there.

    June 24, 2013

    we’ve come to that time of the year when the apartment family usually takes an extended leave of absence in order to seek new inspiration, for a month or two, in lands saturated with olive oil, hard cheeses and soft fruits. and so it is again today. except different. this time, it’s for a year or two…

    see, journeys have felt for me lately so few and far between. I miss the real journeys, not mere trips of leisure but adventures that promote discovery as well as discomfort, that teach us just as we were convinced we knew everything, that attempt to create new familiarities. with most of our time spent at destinations, fulfilling geographical, personal, or professional obligations, we too rarely spend time wondering about the next departure as we tend to stay too long in any one place, comforted by knowing it too well and forgetting why we arrived at this strange place to begin with, because it was strange, because we were curious, once, because we had something to lose…

    certainly, that’s why i moved to New York City in september 1989, while an 18 year-old french boy, and i frankly am flabbergasted that i stayed this long…

    well, i fib a little, i do know. I know it took time to properly investigate all the aspects of life i found to be fascinating, it took time for such investigation to flower into an emerging personality, it took time to then try and grow laterally in a place that always wants us looking up. well, it took 25 years. from 18 to now 43 (that’s 25 years, right?…) easily persuaded by this tall and dark hostess to spend all my money in her shop.

    but now, perhaps predictably, i feel a void, excavated by years spent chasing what might constitute a considered life, years surely growing more efficient, years finding ways to accomplish each task not to success but to satisfaction. i always felt a need to subtract from my life the unessentials, if not materially (numerous storage facilities throughout manhattan can testify to that,) at least psychologically, enough to now find myself satisfied, opening the doors to a life, not of ease but potentially consisting as much as possible of what i want to do.

    problem is, i don’t know what i want to do…

    over the past 25 years, i have been lucky to dabble in photography, theology, filmmaking, retail, design, architecture, writing, philosophical research, music and cooking as part of the poorly-named “creative agency” business my wife gina and i launched in 1999 and i was obsessed by each and every one of those activities at the time of discovery and subsequent experimentation; but now feel my thirst quenched. of course, i am not trying to pretend i have no more to learn about each subject, lord knows how little i know, only that obsession, fascination, even addiction have always been necessary components of my interest, they are what first sparks curiosity, murders procrastination and feeds for the long run, but something i no longer feel for any of anything. well, anything other than apple rumors.

    and so, a void was created. by me. to fill.

    what with ? i don’t know yet. and as much as i am aware that a change in geography has little to do with finding one’s mind, there is one thing i am sure of: i am sick of my point of view, literally. also, figuratively. the belief system i now hold to be true was forged decades ago and evolved into a set of values against which i now judge my environment and the people and things in it. also, tweets from @robdelaney. these values are what allow me to “decide” whether something is ostensibly “good” or “just good enough to wipe myself with.” yes, i’m charming. thing is, as much as i back evolution in my kid’s textbook, i am a proponent of creation in my own life, of my own life, i should say. and that is a process i have not actively put in motion in years. i miss it. i miss the act of deciding one morning that you’re a filmmaker, a few afternoons later that you can design homes and websites, that you’ve had enough of a neighborhood, city or country and leave for another… for over a decade now, i wore the shoes of the 30 year-old me, letting them lead me where he wanted to go, or stay, instead of asking myself if they still fit! well, it stops today, i’m sick of that guy, his shoes and all his lustrous hair!

    my family and i have decided to change that point of view, literally first by moving to Bologna, Italy, where the wine is sweet and the tortellini appropriately cheesy, and figuratively second by consciously and actively questioning who we are; through those questions, hopefully eventually arrive at what we shall do.

    that said, i assume that it won’t be easy to focus on the self when meals such as the above arrive at your table with the prosciutto in a separate plate because “the heat from the pizza would ruin the taste in the time it takes to bring it from the kitchen to the table were it on top…”

    the goal of this adventure is threefold:

    1. to prove out that a business can be run from anywhere one the world.
    2. to establish a base from which travelling north, south, east and west is easy, affordable and practical.
    3. to be fed new knowledge as well as un-refrigerated tomatoes.

    now, this very well could be a complete bust but we are intent on taking the leap we have so often talked about, and heard talked about, and diving into the boiling water of change, aware, apprehensive but excited at the prospect of newness. it might be a bust but cannot be a waste of time.

    the funny thing is that as we set up this new european outpost, the running of the apartment creative agency will most likely be exactly the same. still communicating, still writing proposals, still putting together teams of incredible designers and strategists from all over the world and executing incredible, if slightly odd, experiences for our clients. such is the way of the always-on global nomad. we are very much looking forward to experimenting with the furthest notions of “remote work” and thank our current and soon-to-be clients for trusting that it will works. because it works already.

    so, on we go, tweeting, flickering and branching all the way through. it’s going to be interesting.

    at least that’s what i’m telling myself because i’m scared shitless! but that’s my story and it’s sticking to me.

    have an incredible summer and don’t forget to write!

    April 16, 2013


    can there ever be peace? can we ever get along? is it possible for israeli not to go after palestinians, for north koreans not to go after south koreans, for taliban not to go after who is not like them, for us not to go after who we don’t approve of? sadly, probably not before pepsi stops going after coke… everyday, as near as we may live next to others, we don’t really live with them, we cohabitate. it seems that we merely tolerate the presence of other life forms and mostly think about how we can stand on their shoulders in order to appear a little bit taller. whether we choose to eat them, display them in zoos, or try to go after their position, which we believe should have been granted to us, always we seem not to desire to exist together but to win. and win what? success? money? a v.i.p. seat in whatever you call heaven? i know our social contract wasn’t signed long ago but should we not have learned by now that toleration, at the very least, must lead the way to understanding? but that seems to be a tough request, whether the “other” cuts us off on the highway or represents different patriotic ideals.

    to achieve any form of peace, we must try interaction and leave reaction to the birds, we must try empathy and leave apathy to vultures, we must try because if we don’t, there will soon be none of us left. we must try because if we don’t, every generation, as it has for the past five thousand years, will sadly continue to have to explain to their children that our species does not learn from its mistakes. if we consider ourselves superior, let’s start acting superior, by learning humility, by being the bigger man, by embracing ourselves. pepsi, your move…

    March 18, 2013


    i’ve had up it to here (at about frontal lobe height) with people who want to “put a dent in the universe” thinking themselves clever for re-using the wishful fantasy of one dramatic feeling steven p. jobs. those who exaggerate in such a way are usually people who love to hide behind hyperbole in order to seem extremely ambitious while, at the same, be obligated to do very little in order to then be at least able to boast of their extraordinary try when they fail. truth is, the universe cares little about a computer mouse, a graphical user interface or a touchscreen phone, however magical they may seem. i know, big shock. these inventions do not change the course of cosmic evolution, they simply, at best, help us order underwear faster. we know this, all of us know this, so why do we conspire to cultivate in our global stages, classrooms and tweets a language of overkill rhetoric that has so far proven nothing of its effectiveness on those of us looking for encouragement? why do we still instist on inspiring others to “reach the sky” when we still have so much work to do on the soil? yes, matters of language may be superficial but this obsession with exaggeration has become the standard among would-be dispensers of motivation who leave us wondering if our failure to follow through on our planned journey to neverland was our fault and that is not ok.

    what if, instead of trying to deal a blow to the marvellous paint finish of space, we merely tried to reach goals a little closer to home? for most of us, even trying to positively influence the entire planet would a task that demands the commitment of a lifetime and probably unending resources, not to mention talent, so why not try the opposite of what every single TED speaker advises and focus our minds narrowly, on objectives that we care deeply about and that obey the rules of personal practical logic. see, for steve jobs, invention in a growing industrial realm was not a dream, it was a day-to-day activity, not a re-definition of the possible, merely a matter of ingenuity and engineering. perhaps in his own mind, when he closed his eyes before sleeping, he imagined his place in the microcosm of our little blue marble to be of some importance but he knew that he was simply doing what he had to and chose to dedicate all his time to doing it as well as he could. that is not a compromise made as a result of failing to turn coal into gold, which is what i assume is meant when advice-givers goad us to “make the impossible, possible,” that is literally the best we can do. and why should that not be enough? why reach beyond our best when we cannot conceive of the inconceivable? let’s not get lost in grandiloquence for the sake of impressing our “followers,” shall we?

    so, please, stop reaching for the stars and reach for a friend, reach for a few more hours to do a better job, reach for an extra project which may allow for an extra trip to an undiscovered land this summer where you may reach for your lover on the first rainy morning but don’t reach for over-wrought metaphors that you neither created nor feel really up to accomplishing. all it will do is breed un-fulfillable expectations which will inevitably frustrate and precipitate further hesitation. nobody who has ever done anything of value has ever reached for the stars, they just did what they needed to do when they needed to do it, it’s pretty fucking simple. analogies, metaphors, parallels and mottos are nothing but talk, let’s leave them at that.

    and let’s all stop talking this week.