A bad director
A bad boss
Brings out the worst in people.
He makes you not want to come in to work at all.
A good director brings out the best in people.
He asks those around him to rise to new challenges again and again and they do.
It is very hard to be a good director.
A Thank-Yous Note for Those Who Contributed to Coffeegraph
This has been in development for weeks – through bus rides and evenings before bed and afternoons of holidays. I am sure it will change as I remember more things, but for now, here it is, in all of its unnecessary length. That’s just my style:
Coffeegraph is over, and as Patrick put it, “the roof didn’t cave in so we’re ok.” In actuality, the roof did cave in, but it happened right before Coffeegraph, and we fixed it, so we’re still ok. But what Patrick was saying in a less literal manner is that we took on a very ambitious project and successfully got through it without destroying ourselves. And what’s more, we impressed the coffee community, made a multitude of lifelong fans, landed our first major sponsorships, made enough money to come out on top and pay people instead of funding out of pocket, sold a couple of pieces, got more press than ever before, learned a ton about how our space interacts with fans and situations, and most importantly discovered a model for throwing shows that works.
In June, when planning for Coffeegraph loosely started, I didn’t even drink coffee. Now I can operate a Strada II espresso machine (note that I did not go so far as to call myself a barista). I’m not going to sit here on this Greyhound and say that the show went perfectly or even met my expectations, because I feel that I missed the mark greatly in many areas I was anticipating to excel; I will say that there were a couple moments where I was going to give up (indeed, I had declared Coffeegraph my final attempt at throwing shows here and its failure to satisfy our ambitions the ultimate demis of the Think Tank), but I don’t think you can make something this big if you don’t want to kill it and henceforth yourself – since it is you – somewhere along the lines. And due to the names I am about to rattle off, I fought through and accomplished this festival of coffee, and achieved what might be the greatest 0-60 in coffee history as well; from afraid of caffeine to running a full-on coffee shop with the best coffee in town with mere weeks to figure it out after starting in November. Not to mention hosting a bevy of events while maintaining the full-time job of start-up coffee shop owner and the other full-time job of art gallery manager. There were moments in which the word “impossible” was used aloud to describe a problem that was solved just hours later, on multiple occasions. And it was these people that achieved those miracles:
First, I must thank John, who I could tell was itching to involve himself in the process and swoop in to save the day at many junctures. But instead he sat back, and let me make my mistakes and figure it out on my own - which is what we needed - while simply offering his advice and encouragements. Well, he did gift us with a ton of milk and water at the end when we ran out of money, but its just in his nature to be generous like that so I can’t complain at all.
The most important player in all of this was Avi. That pull-no-punches pillar of insight and energy really drove me to make sure this show would happen. I don’t know if I’ve received such a potent dose of wisdom and constructive criticism in my life (forget college), and all while respecting my differing opinion on how to run the show. And no lesson was better received in all my life than “toss out the garbage and keep the good stuff,” especially after I repeated this to him and he wondered out loud “who said that?” Your patience will go down as one of the most valuable resources in establishing the Think Tank’s foothold in the LA art scene, Avi. Not to mention your endless determination.
Speaking of determination, it was just June that I first told Avi that “we won’t be hosting an art show about coffee (later switched to ‘a coffee show about art’ after a delirious, late-night brainstorm “mistake”) without building a coffee shop,” whereafter Avi unleashed his can’t-be-stopped nature on the city of Los Angeles and found me a list of interested parties that proved this could be possible. But it the determination of Garrett that really proved the integral piece of the puzzle. Garrett accomplished the impossible task of building a structure that changed every day due to to the ever-evolving aesthetic and functional needs of a rapidly growing list of involved parties. He also did this almost completely out of free material and in three weeks. And with zero prior knowledge of building any type of restaurant or coffee bar kitchen. And with no promise of pay. And little help. If there is any sign of a miracle throughout this process, the moment a pro barista answered my question of our setup’s efficiency with “it’s better than half of the restaurants I’ve worked at,” we knew the food/coffee blog focus on our pop up was justified.
The bar itself could not have succeeded without the help of the LA Coffee Club. Especially Adam. We needed not only access to, but acceptance into a very tightly knit coffee community that is just planting its roots in LA, and it was the LA Coffee Club that provided this. Once the other half of the Club, Antone, got the coffee companies confirmed, however, their involvement didn’t fall off. Instead, it was hard to visit the bar without seeing Adam behind it practicing his latte art, while somehow also not missing a moment of shooting video at any event, providing over half of our marketing material, renovating his site when ours was confusing people, and being the dude that solved any problem that arose. And huge thanks also go out to Sarah from the LA Public Library for introducing me to these guys.
And speaking of solving problems that arose, one of the biggest favors that we were done was Evan from Stumptown turning down our initial pitch in favor of becoming our go-to guy in the early days of planning Coffeegraph. Evan let us know that our original pitch of $15k was going to come nowhere near cutting it for what we’d end up needing to run this thing, and introduced us to a bunch of other people to share the love as much as possible instead of hogging the glory. If it wasn’t for Stumptown signing on imediately and mentoring us through the whole process, this show wouldn’t have happened. Evan also introduced me to Mike, who loaned us the pinnacle in coffee machinery, basically letting us borrow the equivalent of a luxury vehicle, after a few phone calls and a Skype session with Garrett where we set up a laptop on a dirty mop bucket in our crime scene of a work-in-progress warehouse. He took a huge risk and we appreciate that. It took some trust and some imagination and a lesser man would not have seen it with the open mind that he did.
Pretty much the whole way through, Patrick remained one of the most important players in the creation of anything. From coordinating the creation of our initial pitch for partnership between myself and our designer MACA - who also was very important to the existence of this show - Patrick handled everything from putting together our landing page, to creating the incredible teaser spotlight on Avi, to developing the retail system through which we sold anything that was sold. And he hasn’t stopped. He is still working on sharable content.
We also will remain forever indebted to Patricia, who threw herself without reservation into the Coffeegraph show and donated her entire services merely for the chance to be involved and for the belief in what the Think Tank represents. From moderating our panels to landing LA Weekly as our official media partner (shout out to Elisa who made working with LA Weekly a blast), to getting Avi his much-needed interviews, Patricia did everything short of build the show herself. And in fact, when the opportunities arose (like buying materials or printing the signs), she built the show, too.
This is stretching on like an Oscars speech by a winner in an unimportant category who gets cut off by the commercial break, so I’ll jump to the shout outs. But I must also cite Aurelia and Drew’s contributions. The two of them sacrificed sleep and health for the betterment of the show. Using their expertise they explored and discovered the space, but it was by their commitment to my mental health that these two really contributed. At the times I thought this show was impossible in its scale, Aurelia or Drew would show up and confirm that what I was attempting was just. And the Think Tank will be forever transformed for it.
And semi-finally, at the times the show actually was impossible, it was Ana, Danny, and Pilar who came through and saved the day. Like the cleanup crew in an action movie, they came in with their brilliant ideas and second wind (indeed, they powered through a lack of sleep and sacrificed time and holidays even more than the rest of us at times) and saved our weary souls. Things like ignored problems that needed solutions, nourishment, and access to the outside world sat solely on the shoulders of these three monsters of productivity.
When the shit hit the fan, Think Tankers David Darley, Jordan, Colin, Kaleb, Evan, Seth, Arnaud, Dan, Dylan, and others made sure that everything got done. Some-fuckin-how Kevin built us a gorgeous bathroom and ran power and water to our machine in the middle of production. Chad came through with his brilliant mobile coffee bar ‘Barista Capsule,’ which proved one of the most vital contributions. Gretchen at Caffe Vita and Bobby at Cafe Demitasse showed huge faith in their contributions. Zayde, Kian, and Spencer from the guest roasters and all of their volunteer baristas (especially Selina who spent a night training us all for free) really made it all work out.
Runson, Francisco, and the rest of the Experimentalists, Troy and Ned and the Downtown Train guys, and Forrest and his Conundrum funk band will be repaid for their volunteering at the opening with a party for them where I’ll work on the flyer myself. Shaun of Boomtown will make his presence felt here once more (as will Kitty and Jen, I’d hope). All of the contributors who put on LA Coffee Club’s events, as well as their fans who drove from far and wide to finish the show are always welcome here. Jonathan Stout, Hilary Alexander, and the Campus Five (including Josh the drummer from Magnetic Zeros for his great advice) were super supportive and brought a great crowd I can’t wait to have back. Sarah and Joe from Big Frame have been relentlessly supportive of what we are doing here, and introduced me to Michael Cruz at their great panel. Kat put together a wonderful idea for an event that will come to fruition very soon. The Lord Windsor dudes took a chance on our deaf cupping that paid of hugely with Drew and Adam’s help; much thanks goes to Jeremy and the Art Walk Association for supporting our after party during their crazy times, and to Jason and Robbie and the other bandmates I don’t know quite as well for fulfilling prophecies and finally filling our halls with their sounds.
Ariana, Danielle, and the rest of the Ate9 Dance Company have a permanent home at the Think Tank after their memorable coffee-responsive performance of “Sheila.” Dead Meadow gave us bragging rights and one hell of a night and we appreciate that and Evan’s hard work. Aida Batlle also gave us bragging rights and permanent credence in the coffee community, and we struck gold with Andrew and Nora in what will surely become a repeating LA Chess Boxing event. Thank you for fighting through your loss, Andrew. Chuck Jones made our closing event’s panel well-rounded and our performers and LA Weekly street team made it into a party. And all of those bloggers, writers, and editors interested enough to comment on our show have provided us with endless pride. We love you for it.
And speaking of love, I have thanked you many times for your ongoing support, Mom, and that appreciation remains, but this show really goes out to my sisters for believing in me and praying for my success in sharing this beauty. Especially Sarah, who is now old enough to see just how dumb some of the risks I take with my “career” truly are.
Final shout outs to the vinyl wall decal printers, and art delivery guy Brian, and security and cleanup teams from Craigslist who slayed it and will be getting rehired, and Brandon who let us borrow two incredible coffee tables, and Beyond the Grind who provided our wares, and our espresso technician Fernando, and our advisors during trouble The LA Brew Techs, and Ryan Crowley who introduced us to Avi, and Lauren who rush printed our flossy golden shirts, and our neighbors for being patient with our production schedule, and the Lindy Loft folks who taught free swing lessons, and Secret Squirrel who made Cocoa Puffs Mocha Malts, and Tennessee who trained our baristas for doing way more to help us than you had to, all of you.
You made this show beautiful and important.
Super intense day of meetings today
In my over alerted observance of vices and my needs for them I noticed that despite how stressful today was, I accomplished the following:
I replaced them with a ton of gluten and football while I ate a giant bowl of Strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats in front of the MNF game I recorded.
Since picking up basketball again it’s been insanely easier to stay on top of my desire to eliminate dependence on vices. Basketball is that vice now. I gotta play two or three nights a week or I get antsy. That or see my girl an equal amount. But watching, feeling, and hearing that ball go through the net is a beautiful meditation. It washes all stress away. It’s religious almost.
Anyway these are just my quarter-life observations. I’m going to bed now to get up and get back to pounding the pavement on this coffee show. Details soon.
I’m going to make it without smoking anything, drinking alcohol, soda, or caffeine, spending money, playing video games, and any kind of intimacy today. Just art.
It’s crazy how many vices artists can find to distract themselves from just creating.
BEST FRIEND TURNED LOVER: MY BIRTHDAY TRIP TO SANTA BARBARA
I want to remember this singular occasion so I am writing it down. It gets kinda sexy so be wary, family that might be reading this…
I hadn’t seen her in two months, and though we had kissed for the first time just days before she left, and though that kiss had more fireworks in it than any first kiss in my life, the two years prior where I was comfortable wondering if one of my best friends could be a potential lover weighed heavier on my zeal to go for it with her than my intense longing to finally answer the question of whether or not this love could turn into “in” love.
Our group of campers declared that the sun was setting and that it was time to smoke and walk the private beach to watch it dissolve over the cliffsides. The entire scene looked like you could grab a spoon and scoop out across the sky, cliffsides, ocean, and shore, and lap it up like a bite of sweet sherbet ice cream.
As we walked away from our cliffside tent and toward the sunset, we held hands for the first time. Ever. We walked with our feet in the ocean. We played with the dogs that were dancing around us. We separated from the others that were walking with us. They began walking slower as we began walking faster. Eventually they began yelling at us to turn around with them as it would soon get dark. But we had seen the sun descend into a place of seclusion and we wanted to meet it there. We began running, hand in hand, through the tide, to the end of our beach.
When we arrived we found many large stones poking out of the sand, with the tide skipping around them. We found the largest, roundest one and sat on it. Her leg immediately crossed mine, and her head laid on my shoulder. I thought she was trying to hear my heartbeat, but maybe that’s because it was all I could hear. The sky was pretty dark now, and we could only see the lights just off shore in the ocean. For some reason I felt tense and horrified of something.
"What are those? They look like pirate ships." She whispered the words, but I could hear over the pounding of the waves and my heart in my ears.
"They’re oil rigs."
She paused and then said, “…then they are pirate ships.”
She immediately broke the tension. I started laughing loudly at how clever she was - one of her most reliable traits. She was still my best friend and nothing could change that. I placed my palm on the nape of her neck, with my fingers stretched across her hairline and my thumb gently pressed in front of her ear. She turned to kiss me but first we looked at each other. It was still strange that for some reason it didn’t feel wrong. Why didn’t it feel wrong? We both wanted it to feel wrong.
We kissed for what felt like an hour, until we were too wet and freezing and realized that although the entire Milky Way was visible above us, we didn’t have enough light to walk back. Hugging the shore, we made our way back to the cliff that bore our tent. She got scared for a minute that we were going the wrong way. I told her to trust me and we jogged along the beach at night beneath the moonlight toward a lost iPhone search party with flashlights beneath the entrance to our campsite.
Despite the fact that we lost our shoes, we climbed to the tent, where my shag rug lay on top of two sleeping bags, with the softest blanket ever for us to share on that. We pulled the fly off of the tent and opened the door. We could see the entire night sky and the moon reflecting off of the ocean. After a few moments of pressing our bodies together but hesitating as to how easy it all felt, we decided to spend the rest of the night making love to the rhythm of the ocean in between naps wrapped into each other in various forms.
We took sensual shapes in that small tent that had tempted us for two years of platonic touching. We discussed our circumstances. She understood that another woman had my heart and that it would be hard for me to give it up to her in stead. I wanted things here to feel wrong but they felt amazing and this was confusing me. She responded as incredibly as I knew she would. She told me that she would always be there for me, no matter what, and that this felt good and true and natural, and that she wanted to enjoy it, but that once it was done I needed to go back to this girl. Then we made love again. I told her that I knew she had never known how being in love felt and that I was confident I could show her. The waves felt and sounded like they were hitting the side of the tent.
There was too much beauty to be seen in the stars, felt in the intrigue of my first brushes across her bare back, and heard in the brutally inspiring tide to sleep. I would doze off for a few moments, then awake to the feeling of her body moving in its sleep, or her reaching up for another kiss. I don’t think I slept a wink that night but I woke up feeling more refreshed than any night in my life.
We arose with the sun. We brushed our teeth with a bottle of water, smoked, put Erykah Badu on my phone, and made love with the tent wide open for all of Japan to see from across the Pacific. We held hands and kissed in hidden corners while lagging behind group for the rest of the day and car ride back to Los Angeles. Then she dropped me off in my more permanent lover’s arms.
And now we are just best friends. We haven’t spoken about it since.
Someone just asked me where I have been. They noticed my lack of posts.
My answer was that, to be honest, I feel like I was a complete tool on the internet and I was embarrassed at how foolish I had become. I had to take a step back and realize that what I was working toward was irrelevant and superficial and there were more important things to be done. I had to separate myself from my ignorant public image for a while. I will resurface at some point if I feel my work worthy of people’s valuable attention. Right now the only thing I am doing worth noticing is my work at my day job at the Think Tank.
And I gotta say
Vices are so much more satisfying when you’ve been fucking killing it all day. I’m boutta slam a $6 bottle of wine TODAMUHFUCKINFACE. I’ve clocked 65 hours so far this week of SKRAIT HUSTLIN. Clocking hours while hustling also makes you realize just how lazy you are when you’re lazy.
Time for some nature.
THINGS I HAVE LEARNED WHILE (SEMI-LEGALLY AT TIMES) RUNNING AN ART GALLERY AND MUSIC VENUE WITH FRIENDS
The following are some tricks I have learned while trying to do something I have no business trying to do but of which I am damn proud to have learned. Obviously enough to be sharing them with you to use in your own lives. Many of these lessons are learned through friends and not direct experience.
- Do you have something that you know will impress someone rich or famous if you can only get it in front of their eyes? Put it in a watch-sized box - or better yet in a rolex box. Emails, letters, and even some parcels are screened out by assistants, but a gift-wrapped box often serves as a thank you gift to celebrities and will get through directly to their hands. Instead of a watch in the box, an extremely-well-thought-out and hand-designed card or letter is inside, proving how much you really believe in your idea. Bands used to send boomboxes with their tapes already in them ready to press play and listen, just to stand out from the crowd. Heather in advertising at deviantART taught me this.
- Are the fire inspectors coming to look at your sprinkler system and fire escapes but you can’t afford to make the fixes you know they are going to require of you? Find something smaller that they can fix - or break something a little bit (even better, find a way to blame it on someone else and sound rather upset about it) - and start the conversation off by asking them about a topical building code. If you’re lucky, you can distract them enough to just fix the… ladder crank that’s dented or whatever you have invented, and they will completely ignore the illegal wall you just built between the sprinkler systems. Of course when you can afford to fix that, make it a priority. Any amount of time spent with dangerously illegal alterations is an irresponsibly immoral one.
- Need a liquor license but you can’t get the permit in your ghetto building? Beer and wine one night licenses are only $200-250. But you need to prove you’re safe enough to serve drinks. Instead, skip the $200 a night and do whatever you can to make sure you don’t get busted (more about that in the next tip) with the risk of taking the fine - which is only $1,000. If you average six events without getting busted, you saved money. Beer and wine only, though; liquor offenses raise exponentially.
- Vice can only shut down your party. If they don’t have a warrant, they can’t come into your business to see if you are selling drinks. Make sure the drinks stay inside, make sure each party has an RSVP list, and the cops aren’t allowed in your private party. They can shut you down, but if you play your cards perfectly right, they can’t - and hopefully won’t want to if you are polite and concise with your story, with as much truth in it as possible, prepared in advance - take your alcohol and fine you.
- Video content is really valuable. If you can valuably promote a major brand, they are infinitely more likely to give you a chance through sponsorship. Under shoot yourself financially and put a little bit of money in on your own, over deliver, and watch the client list stack up. Once your audience is large, and your body of work is impressive, you will be much more lucrative for these companies to look at. Keep in mind that it is very hard to satisfy at this level consistently, so make sure you have the proper time and energy to dedicate to these ventures before starting any of them. Ruining your own reputation comes hard and fast. I’ve dabbled and it’s not fun so I avoid it where I can.
- Going to an event at night? First find out everyone you’ve heard is important that will be there. Google the names, remember the faces, and find one or two things they have worked on to talk about. Run into them at the party and pull one of those, “hey didn’t you work on?” People love to talk about their own work. You’ll probably get their number and they’ll remember you like, “oh yeah I liked that guy…” Works wayyyyyy better if you’re a hot chick. Almost enough to just bring a hot chick with you.
- Have a nice camera? Bring it everywhere. Take pictures of everyone. Cool photos where it looks like they are having hella fun. Make a dude spit whiskey into the mouth of the model he brought with him. They will be dying to see the pictures so just give them a card and introduce yourself. If you see them again, maybe take a picture with them. They will hit you up in the next few days with a “hey dude I checked out your blog. Cool shit. I know someone that… can I see those pics?” If you’re lucky you can meet like three people just through them.
- Don’t miss your friends’ shows. They’ll be famous one day - if you pick the right friends - and you dont want them to remember you as a tool. You need to be the cool, supportive, artsy friend in their memories. You’ll thank yourself for it if one of them blows the hell up and stays friends with you. Or if they turn into an internet king with hella pull.
- Need to find emails from a private institution like a school but they’re not listed? Try to find at least two of them. Often the names of faculty are listed, and you can google them until you find two people that have contact emails. If the emails match in format, say Allison Drewbeck becomes dallison@schoolname, and Greg Olivar into ogreg@schoolname, you can assume that they are all like that. Go down the list and hit every single one of the faculty up asking if they have a general direction you could go. If you’re lucky a couple will say they appreciate your cleverness and help out cuz they see something in you or some cool crap like that. Then you just follow your leads.
When I Stop Following a Vlogger
I love youtube, I really do and I love vlogs. The idea of vlogging, and while I did it for two years and I really enjoyed it I found that I was trying to move into something else that wasn’t vlogging and wasn’t want I wanted.
I found that most vlogs are trying to do what they do on TV. They have a set, they have fancy graphics and they try to do really interesting sketches or skits. Why are they trying to be old media when what they started with was what made them interesting.
The perfect example of this is Phillip DeFranco. The guy was just a regular Joe on youtube, talking from his office, from his living room, and now he has a set, with a special couch (That he never sits on) and everything is manicured to say “This is the image I want to present to you” but none of it is really him. It’s all made up… and it’s vlogging because that’s his job not because he really wants to do it… it also changed.. it’s a show not a vlog.
Now Vloggers can’t be taken seriously on youtube. A vlog is something that you do on the side ontop of your regular youtube gig where you create music, or do skits, or make insane whacky videos because now youtube is a compeition.
Youtube used to be “This is my life, take a look at it.” The first youtube video ever is proof of this as it is nothing but a day at the zoo… poorly shot… Now Youtube has Youtube Celebrities who go on tour and perform for people and hold conventions and I’m not saying that’s bad or that’s wrong, but it’s also not really want I want from my youtube.. but it’s harder and harder for my version of youtube, the stuff I love to be the stuff that people care about or want to pay attention to.
I think this can all be traced back to Lonely Girl who set up a lot of people, and then became a show and then she left or died… well the character did. Then suddenly the fake was the standard. If you’re not better than the fake vlogger then you’re not a good vlogger at all! and who cares. I don’t care if a vlogger is shooting using his old iPhone in portrait mode as long as they have something interesting to say on a topic that I actually care about!
The company that made the Flip Camera did huge numbers because they made a camera that everyone could buy, shoot with easily, upload to youtube with and how long did that last? Not long. Almost as soon as everyone was shooting on a flip to get that quick and easy vlog with, everyone switched over to full HD cameras, Digital SLR cameras like the Canon 5D Mk2.
So now in order to vlog and be considered worthy of following I can’t just use the camera built into my phone or my computer I have to spend thousands on a lighting set up and a set in my office and a camera. And that’s when I stopped vlogging.
I stopped because it wasn’t fun anymore. Podcasting is fun! Why? Because it takes 2 hours a week, I do it with a friend and we can talk about whatever we want. It also doesn’t hurt that the entry was 2 mics and free software that works on Mac or PC. Oh and Skype.
Youtube is now the home of insane cooking shows, digital explosions, clip shows and censored profanity. The viral video is dead. Vlogging is dead.
Besides the last two statements which I only partially believe (viral videos live on Tosh.0 and vlogging still exists, it’s just that no one watches it), this writing pretty perfectly puts to words the reason I have been falling off on my YouTube so much lately. All I needed was a reason - my family and subsequent financial issues compelled me to get out of the public eye - but the real source of the problem is that as I have gotten old enough to experience a more aware self-reflection, I have decided what parts of me I want to shave off to upgrade.
One of those things is anything I feel I am being fake about. YouTube just feels sooooo faaaaaaake to me sometimes and I can’t stand it. But a lot of those guys are my friends and they are getting MONEY so I don’t trip on it for them, and I certainly don’t judge them for it. Because when it comes down to it I am hating from a much less expensive computer setup. It’s just not for me anymore.
When I start making videos consistently again, it’s gunna be because it’s fun for me again.