On Being Sufferable

This Colbert bit about Facebook’s new Like emoji is only barely parody. It’s an on-the-nose treatment of my least favorite current trend of Designers Cloyingly Talking about Design. It makes my stomach hurt.

This Mike Monteiro video, however, is a nice contrast to the kind of talk Colbert is satirizing, and it’s one of the reasons I like Monteiro so much. He talks about design like it’s a job, not like he just invented intercourse.

Upon My Death

When I die I want one person as yet unaware of my death to say, “Where’s Charlie?” Then another person will say, “Probably creating some great content.” Then a third person, just arriving, but having heard the conversation up to that point, will say, “Actually, he just died, but good guess, because he was always creating really good content.” Then the three of them will create some content about my death.

“I don’t talk about that anymore.”

These first weeks of Colbert’s Late Show have been exciting for this nearly-life-long fan of late night comedy. I love how he is experimenting with the form, shortening the monologue, bringing the anchor/graphic trope from his his previous show. There are other little meta details and love notes to Letterman I drink up as well, but the single aspect of his show I have enjoyed the most is his handling of the Presidential candidates.

He has been called the “grownup of late night”, which seems pretty fitting. When the candidates go on Fallon, it’s all fun and games, which is in keeping with the lighter legacy of Leno’s Tonight Show, but Colbert has been a different story thus far. He pressed Jeb about his disagreements with his brother. He mashed on Sanders a little about his socialism. And he didn’t let Cruz make the typically fawning references to Reagan without asking him admit he disagreed with Reagan’s amnesty plan for immigrants, or raising taxes. Cruz was performing the classic politician move of evading a direct question and heading straight for his branded talking point, and Colbert interrupted him and made him concede the point, to Cruz’s visible frustration.

It’s maddening when journalists and hosts of all stripes allow candidates to just barrel through a tough question, and so far Colbert has demanded their a-game. Until last night.

The Trump interview was disappointing. Who knows what factors played into it. Perhaps he was reprimanded for being too tough on Cruz, but comedians usually take that kind of reprimand as a near moral obligation to disobey, so I am currently in doubt of that reason, though I could be wrong. There is so much craven insanity in the things Trump says, and I thought Colbert would press him harder. I would have even been satisfied if his only question to Trump had been the birther question, but he pulled his punch when he let Donald get away with a simple “I don’t talk about that anymore.”

I love Colbert’s work so much, and he’s going to have to commit a lot worse than this sin of omission to run me off, but I hope to see more of that tenacity in future candidate and business leader interviews. He has been telegraphing that this isn’t place to try to sell yourself as personable, but to be ready to talk about things you try to evade elsewhere. I hope he stays this course.

A Teetotaler Jots Down a Few Bar Concepts

  • A nice place where everyone sits quietly and watches Antiques Roadshow reruns

  • A dry bar that’s well lit and sells groceries. Could just be a grocery store with chairs.

  • Something with casseroles. All kinds of casseroles. Maybe in an old church.

  • An olive bar. No, an olive buffet. I don’t like the word “bar.”

Screenplay: Alien Destroys Earth

ALIEN: I will sweep your house, human, but I do it my way.

HUMAN: [nods]

ALIEN: [motions as if to levitate furniture; nothing happens] My powers don’t work on your planet.

HUMAN: You could just move the furniture with your arms like we do.

ALIEN: [gets back on ship; destroys Earth]

Making, and having made

My kids watch a lot of cake videos on YouTube. They don’t just watch videos of pretty cakes, though. They watch videos of people making pretty cakes. And when they get out the play dough, paints, dolls, they don’t just make things with it, they make videos. They don’t have an actual camera, but as they work, they are narrating their process for their imaginary viewers. My 3YO brought me two vanilla wafers yesterday along with a jar of peanut butter, the honey and a butter knife. “Daddy, I make video.” She wanted me to pretend with her that we were making a tutorial video about how to make a peanut butter, honey, and vanilla wafer sandwich cookie.

These videos are teaching them to enjoy the process of making as much, or more, than they enjoy having made. That’s a pretty great thing to get your head right about at such a young age.

Now, if I could just break them of begging for subscriptions.

The Impossibility of Parenting

I guess telling people how to parent has always been a thing, but man, has it exploded the past few years, mainly because of Facebook. Because that’s basically what Facebook is — a platform for people to tell other people they’re doing / thinking / believing things wrong. But it’s this particular sub-genre of telling dads how not to mess up their daughters that I find particularly difficult to parse.

My friend, Rian, has some great thoughts about how impossible it is to be a parent in the 21st century. It’s not actually impossible. It’s insufferable. And by “it” I mean almost literally every living human in possession of a keyboard and a strong opinion (says a guy on his blog).

Moving in a Dream

I was towing a big Penske moving truck behind our van. Only it wasn’t connected with a chain; it was connected via Bluetooth. I got too far ahead of it and out of range, breaking the connection and sending it careening out of control into a doctor’s office. The only injuries were to one lady’s finger. I guess she was pointing at something, which is rude, so let that be a lesson to her. Handily the office had a specific fee for just such an occasion, and it was only $30.

Still, my wife was pretty mad.

Behind the Scenes Has Become the Scene

I found a great article recently (via a tweet from Austin Kleon) about the restoration of a broken sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While Carol Vogel details the process in her article, she also reveals the emerging trend of museums opening these processes to the public. This is a departure from what has been a strict secrecy in museums about showing the public how the sausage gets made, or that they were even making sausage. They thought it would ruin the enjoyment of the restored work. And there may have been a time when that was true, but as director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague notes, “We live in a time when the public wants to look behind the scenes and museums are finally becoming more open about it.”

Italy’s Uffizi Gallery in Florence, for example, had conservators working in a glassed-in lab so visitors could watch the action. Right now, in Belgium, Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” better known as the Ghent Altarpiece of 1432 — one of the world’s most famous panel paintings — is undergoing a seven-year restoration. Financing from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles has helped pay for it, including an interactive website showing the work in minute detail. (The public can also visit the three sites in Ghent where it is being restored.)

Some of these open restorations are viewable in the museum, others are at a separate location for now, no doubt because the museums were not designed to showcase this work. I imagine museums of future will be designed where these things are given more equal weight in the layout of the building. Access to these restorations allows us to watch art history being written.

This idea is exciting to me on a deeper level than simply my desire to see how things are made. It’s exciting because it is art affectionately serving art. Think of all the art and art history students getting to see the nuts and bolts of the work of the masters and have a hand in restoring their beauty. It’s taking everything we’ve learned from those masters, every advancement of technology, and aiming it back at keeping our history in the physical world for another couple generations.

My CUbroadcast Interview

At the beginning of September I gave a talk about improvisation at the CU Water Cooler Symposium in Austin, TX. It was a real gas, and Mike Lawson was among the many terrific people I met there. He asked to interview me for his show, CUbroadcast, and just posted the video of our chat. We had a great discussion about how improvisation and failure plays out at the office, on teams, and in our head, and how the leadership in our organizations can nurture it to release creativity, or shut it down altogether.

Mike is a thoughtful interviewer, and a gracious host. You should check out more of his work at CUbroadcast.