Fighting for My Beliefs

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It’s still on my bookshelf: the paperback copy of Moby Dick (Signet Classic, 75¢) that I read while serving in the Army in Vietnam, indelibly stained with the red dirt from western edge of III Corps, along the Cambodian border, where I spent six months in the late 1960s. It is about the same latitude as Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and a tourist destination for many Americans.

I was a young man with liberal beliefs who went to a Quaker college. How did I end up in the Army, fighting in a war I despised? (read more…)

Oreo versus Art

Andy-Warhol-32-Soup-CansI recently sang about Oreos in a TV commercial.

I’m part of a band that’s had some recent success, which has been hugely exciting for me. I love music and consider being a musician a core part of my identity (not that I am fully supporting myself this way yet, Oreo commercial notwithstanding).  I genuinely enjoyed producing the Oreo spots, which might horrify some artists. Thinking about why an Oreo commercial might stir up negative emotions for others led me to question my work. Does my participation in this commercial affect the “purity” of my music as an art? (read more…)

Are Video Games Art?

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As a video game designer, I feel like I constantly have to defend the relevance of my chosen career. Yes, some people think it sounds cool and fun, but many – especially those born before 1970 – are disappointed to hear that this is what I do. Unlike writing or fine art, game design doesn’t have widespread cultural recognition as a valid form of art and expression. This has always bothered me and, at times, made me feel insecure about what people think about my work. Recently, I had a funny run-in with a capital-A-Artist that made me reconsider the whole question of whether games qualify as art.

I was taking a ferry to an island off the coast of Maine for a few days vacation away from game development. This was in late September, so school was in session and the tourists that swell Maine’s population every summer had thinned out. It was a warm fall day and there were no other passengers above decks, which meant – I thought – that I could relax with a book and forget about the world for a short while.

And then, before the boat had even left the dock, an old man climbed the stairs to the top deck, sat next to me, and asked me if I knew Nijinsky, the great Russian dancer. (I didn’t then, but I sure as hell do now.)

(read more…)

Learning On The Job

Eliza's Notebooks - croppedI’ve started rereading my journals by looking for today’s date one year ago, two years ago, even three, four years ago.  This means I’ve been keeping a journal, sporadically, for a long time now.  (This might also mean that I think I’m pretty interesting).  

When I first moved to San Francisco three years ago, I wrote a lot about moving, about writing in coffee shops, and the sounds of this fogged and hilled and palm-shaded city, and how they differed from the sounds of New York.  My journal was a notebook, like what you might buy in the hot still days of August, before school started, along with a pencil case and some new gel pens.  I guess, after all, that I’m in the freshman year of life. (Me, September 2012).  

(read more…)

Ask Edna
11 years as an advice columnist

The Gossips

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could just tell us what to do when we have important questions about our lives? Surely everyone has fantasized about this, and surely that desire is part of what drives a persistent love of advice columns. From Dear Abby to Dear Sugar, advice from strangers has been a social constant for a long time.

Today’s guest was an actual anonymous advice columnist. Andy wrote a column called “Ask Edna” for eleven years, from 1996 to 2007, where he fielded all kinds of questions (many of them about office romance, ahem). This interview has been edited for clarity.

 

Tell me about Ask Edna.

My advice column, “Ask Edna,” was written for Wunderman/Y&R for 11 years. The last two of those years, it went global across the agency intranet.

My identity was anonymous the entire time. I chose the pseudonym “Edna” because my name is Andy, and “Andy” spelled backwards is “Edna”….well, almost! LOL.

(read more…)