OK. So I have my heros. Everybody's got heros. This page is sort of
a "Who would I invite to an ultimate fantasy cocktail party?"
Not all of these people are living. Some never did live in the
standard dictionary sense. Some are people who I idealize to the
point than it is completely unreasonable. Some are simply people
who I admire. They are all mixed up here so it is anyone's guess
as to who I'm a blithering fan of and who I'm just kind of fond
By this point it's probably obvious that I'm a slobbering blithering fan of David Bowie. I remember seeing posters of DB when I was in elementary school. I was pretty disgusted by him, but by the time I was in high school things had changed. I had a brief interest in Gary Numan and when my friend and mentor-el-weirdo Tom Eskildson said "If you like Gary Numan you should listen to David Bowie" I checked it out and quickly dropped any pretext of interest in Mr. Numan. The first thing I heard was the live album STAGE. The live cut of FAME was the most fabulous thing I had heard.
There is of course all the obvious stuff about being a chamelion and all that, but what really interested me about Bowie was his attempt to see his actual life as a work of art. The whole Ziggy Stardust thing of creating a fictitious rock star and then playing the role in real life to the point that there is real confusion about who Ziggy is and who Bowie is.
The last few years have seen the return of Bowie to the category of "doing really interesting stuff". His work in the studio has been kind of fabulous (especially his collaborations with Trent Resnor), and davidbowie.com is totally out of control. Have you seen this? Not only is Bowie
an ISP, he has a bank! You can now get a David Bowie credit card!
Roald Engebreth Gravning Amundsen. Better known (when known at
all) as: Roald Amundsen. He was one of the greatest explorers to ever live. In arctic exploration he had no equal. He was the last Viking and a personality that makes the deepest part of my blood boil with the thrill of being on the planet. I have always known him as the first man to make it to the South Pole but recent evidence has suggested that he also achieved his own original ambition, and was also the first man to the North Pole.
Awesome Orson! Partially because I look a bit like Mr. Wells, I have a tendency to draw comparisons. Would that I have a smidge of similarity when it comes to art instead of simply ending up a rotund wine monger. Aside from the whole Mercury Theatre Company and little things like CITIZEN KANE, the War Of The Worlds thing is pretty amazing. I mean think about it! ART making people
run screaming from their homes! How great is THAT?
Robert Wilson... Nuf said.
Herman Melville. Mr. Melville is here primarily because he wrote
MOBY-DICK, which is a big book about some nutty sailers trying
to catch a big white whale... Hijinks ensue.
The Simpsons. In as much as television has something to offer, this is the most important part of American television today. In light of The Simpsons no sitcom makes any sense at all. There is something about the "coolness" (as in Macluhan's notion of "hot" and "cool" mediums) of the animation that endows this show with remarkable emotional power. It is also a surprisingly intelligent show at times. It steers straight towards things and usually generates quite a bit of impact.
Kurosawa Akira is perhaps the best known Japanese film director. Some of his movies are among the most significant films ever made. SHICHININ NO SAMURAI (The Seven Samurai) is one of my favorite movies. What I like about Kurosawa is his ability to be spare and stripped down to the narrative essentials while at the same time being epic and poetic. He is a cinematic pragmatist, but his effect is ultimately poetic. I don't think his later work is particularly strong. The acting gets really weak and Kurosawa himself gets kind of indulgent. Sorry. It doesn't take away from his greatness.
Moby. If you think you haven't heard his stuff you probably have
but didn't know it. Moby's stuff is finding it's way into my work
a lot lately, I listen to it a lot while working. Not to mention
the fact that it's on TV almost constantly.
This is Mr. Picasso. He said once that it took him 18 years to become an adult and the rest of his life to figure out how to be a child again. The other story I like about him is this story from the second world war: When the Gestapo visited Picasso's studio in Paris, an officer saw a sketch of Geurnica. He said "That's very good. Did you do that?" Picasso answered "No. You Did."
I know there's all sorts of stuff about him and the way he treated
the women in his life, but he's here on this page anyway.
Martha Graham is the most significant American artist of the last century. Her contribution is incalculable. As an artist in the performing arts, everything that I do is in the shadow of her monolithic presence in history.
Brian Eno. Brian Eno. Biran Eno. Where would we be without Brian Eno. It was Brian Eno and things like Oblique Strategies that introduced me to the value of randomness in art. It was in his work that I first began to recognize that process is the important part of making work. I came into contact with Eno (through Bowie) while still in High School. The doors he opened for me conceptually were very important.
It's always fashionable to not like this or that Kubrick film.
Well Stanley Kubrick is my hero and I like ALL of his movies.
I even like the ones I don't like. He was as much an artist in
his flaws as he was in his glory. Think about; SPARTICUS, DOCTOR
STRANGELOVE, 2001, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE SHINING etc. Now imagine
that all these came out of one director. It's mind blowing. His
soundtracks alone make him a great artist. Listen to them. Eclectic
and bizarre. This was a smart guy.
Sadly I didn't have very much exposure to Andy Kaufman while he was alive. However, my admiration for him knows no bounds. He is someone who makes me glad to be alive in this age. There is no question of his genius. I'm not such a fan of the Milos Forman movie with Jim Carey... probably cause I'm not such a Jim Carey fan... probably more cause I'm not such a Danny Devito fan.
PIZZICATO FIVE is a Japanese music group. They are a trio, and do a kind of
retro-hip jaz-pop kind of deal. They are way cool by me.
This is not Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson is not a hero of mine. However a charactor he played in Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) is kind of a hero of mine. Max Rockatanski is an amalgamation of so many different hero traditions that he ends up being kind of an "Exhibit A" in discussions about Joseph Campbell. There is a very intentional infusion of Arthurian legend as well as some very astute borrowing from Samurai legends. It's too bad that none of the people in this project ever really got back to this level.
Samuel Beckett once said "in the theatre mankind is challenging
God to be the audience." I hesitate to put Beckett here because
I think he would despise me for doing so...
James Joyce. FINNEGAN'S WAKE (along with MOBY-DICK) is one of the two most
important novels in my life. I read FINNEGAN'S WAKE the way I
look at a forest or lift weights or brush my teeth. It's not about
getting to the end or following something. It is what it is.
It is not coincidence that Joyce is listed here following his some-time secretary Sam Beckett. In my own work I find myself constantly caught in a liminal space between Joyce and Beckett. It is in the tension between these two polarities that I find the deepest inspiration for what I do as an artist.
Steve Wozniak. "The Woz". The man who engineered the leap from the garage band electronics of the Homebrew club into the pure art of the Apple I and II. In more ways than we think, you are seeing this page because of this man. For those of you who don't know: The Woz was the "Other Steve" who, with Mr. Jobs, founded Apple Computer, thus launching American corporate counter-culture. I have spoken to several engineers who get teary-eyed when they talk about the sheer aesthetic beauty of Woz's original circuit board for the Apple II. He now teaches elementary school in Southern California. This guy is (should be) an American National hero. One of my biggest early computer thrills was that I once owned a hard-drive in my PowerBook that had been previously owned by The Woz!
Miyazaki Hayao is a Japanese animated film director. He is perhaps
best known in the United States for PRINCESS MONONOKE, but his
body of work is quite large. One of his early works KASE NO TANI
NO NAOSHIKA is a particular favorite of mine. He's kind of a Kurosawa
meets James Cameron meets J.R.R. Tolkin kind of guy, which is
to say, he's an original.
I don't know about anyone else but I doubt I would have survived
the '80s without David Byrn and his jolly band of Talking Heads. The Mister Rogers of rock'n'roll,
David Byrn has always been pretty amazing to me.
Gertrude Stein is the same only different...
Shonen Knife is a rock trio that is very Very. The three girls are just plain SILLY. With song titles like "Bear up Bison" and "Antonio Baka Guy" (a really bizarre pun which most non-nihongo speakers don't pick up at all) the sensibility of this band throws contemporary Kansai-girl sensibility straight into the middle of the world music pot. I chuckle but they have my heart-felt respect. They have also been amazing in using their own renown to give other small bands a chance.
Bill Atkinson. This guy's brain is where a good deal of what I love about computers came from. This is the man responsible for QuickDraw (the graphical user interface GUI on the Mac.), MacPaint, and HyperCard. The Mac was the first computer to really interest me (because of the GUI), MacPaint was the first application to interest me, and HyperCard is still the primary way that I have for actually creating on the computer. Bill Atkinson is to software what "The Woz" is to hardware. Perhaps the most inspiring story I know, about the development of any innovation comes from Mr. Atkinson: During the famed daylight "raid" of XeroxPARK, when Steve Job's Macintosh team visited the Xerox research center, Bill Atkinson saw a GUI on the ALTO machine which used over-lapping windows. Both Atkinson and Jobs knew that the over-lapping windows were key to making the GUI (and the Macintosh itself) to work. It was seemingly impossible. Atkinson worked for months, haunted by what he had seen at Xerox. Finally, after going beyond any normal standard of obsession, he figured it out and it is now a transparent part of any GUI. The stinger is that what Atkinson saw at Xerox was a mock up! The wizards at PARK had given up on over-lapping windows as impossible!
Mr. Atkinson is now at General Magic.
I kind of grew up on Paul Simon. He is responsible for a lot of my romanticism. Thanks to him I have a empirically inconsistant link to New York in my childhood. I began listening to S&G when I was about 7 (I remember one of my sisters teaching me "57th St. Bridge Song" as a kind of nursery rhyme, so there I was singing "...feeling groovy..." before I knew what ANYTHING meant. When I first heard S&G's recording of it I thought it was cool that these guys did a kids song.) I remember the "Breakup" and thinking that Paul's stuff after it was cool enough that I really didn't care. I still buy anything he puts out. There is something about his emotionality that really gets me.
William Gibson. For those who don't know, Mr. Gibson is the father of Cyberpunk (Philip K. Dick is the grandfather). READ his stuff. I am no longer a big fan of literary sci-fi, but I can honestly say that William Gibson changed my life. I would go on and on here, but I have heard that Mr. Gibson hates fan adulation as much as anything.
Tom Waits should be the poet laureate of the United States.
Marshal Mcluhan is the message. My father showed me a copy of The Medium Is The
Message when I was in Junior High. It was the most amazing book
I had ever seen. The ideas in it were so clear to me that I thought
"great! Now that we know this about the world we are in, we can
get on with all sorts of neat stuff. That it has taken as long
as it has for his ideas to become something other than fashion
is distressing to me.
A double-header hero deal. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. Both of these crazy kids are pretty big in my book. This is
a lousy scan of a good picture. What do you do when your heros
start to date each other?
Lou Reed goes way back to the early days of Bowie as someone on
the Leon's heros list. The title track of the album NEW SENSATIONS
is buried so deep in my blood that I feel like I wrote it.
Laurie Anderson is someone I have become obsessed with in the last 10 years or so. There is something in the way this woman relates to the world and living in it that is a profound inspiration to me. I think what she does has more to do with my ambition that much of what I actually do. (Something which should perhaps be remedied from my end)
This is Akiko Yano. She is one of my favorite recording artists. She sings and plays
the piano. She is amazing! She is married to the much more famous
but much less talented Ryuichi Sakamoto (of YMO fame). She pulls
upon my heart-strings and plays them like a harp.
Frank Loyd Wright. Man oh man. I want to live in Falling Water, in much the same way that I want to read a great book or listen
to a great symphony or attend a great play.
Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Man does this put me in the mainstream or what. It's just that the last two CDs have been really good, and I can't get "Don't Tell Me" from the new disk out or my head.
Obviously this is William Shakespeare. The authorship of the plays
we attribute to this figure is in much debate. I don't really
care. Who ever wrote those plays is a hero of mine. Who ever it
was, has taught me an incalculable amount about the craft of theatre.
This work contains so much fabulous drama and beauty and the sheer
glory of the English language.
OK... Let's all learn the correct pronounciation here. It's not GODZILLA! It's closer to "Go-gee-ra." The word is a contracted combination of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale." Godzilla is something of a Frankenstien myth for the cold-war, eco-concerned world. Created out of a series of mutations caused by nuclear arms testing and reactor mishaps. It's kind of a "Mess with nature and a huge fire-breathing monster will come out of the ocean and crush your city" kind of scenario. It seems simplistic and most of the films really stink but there is something deeply compelling about this guy to me. The Japanese post-war "Big things coming to kill us" idea is deeply rooted in some pretty interesting stuff that is probably more relevant to the rest of the world than we think. The point is that this monster doesn't come from outer space, or evil experiments or anything like that. It is morally much more difficult to escape from the King of Monsters.
OK, OK! Liking Beethoven is about as original as breathing, but it is no less essential. What a guy! All art aspires to music, and all music aspires to the 9th Symphony!
OK, OK! Liking the Beatles is about as original as breathing, but it is no less essential. What a group! All art aspires to music, and all music aspires to the White Album!
John Lennon get's his own listing here for one simple reason. It's not that he was the "Best" beatle or anything like that. It is that he transcended something in our world. His life, work and death made him something unto himself. There will eventually be two kinds of people in the world; those who consider Graceland holy and those who consider the Dakota holy. It's a religious question and I like Elvis but you don't see him on this page do you? If you want an interesting insight into early Christianity, think about the way that Yoko Ono has been treated by "fans".
This is kind of personal. This is Akiko. This is my girlfriend/ best friend/ sparing partner/ wife. This is my hero.
More to come...
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