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Part 2: Life Lessons From Prince: Four Things I Learned After Four Days At Paisley Park.

Chanhassen-Prince-Mural-1I found myself asking this morning why I chose to break this blog up into 4 pieces instead of just pulling it all together in one sitting and throwing it out there. I told myself it was for reasons related to practicality like the fact that people don’t like to read long blogs and that I want time to get each piece perfect. I also thought it was just good old fashioned procrastination but that If i committed to the piece I would get it all done in a timely manner.

All that said what I realized as I was writing this second lesson today was that stretching this process out is allowing me to live with a meditation that I am not yet ready to part with. The time I spent at Paisley Park really did open up a door in my consciousness that I had started closing – but that allowed light into my life that I needed to remind me what’s out there. It reminded me of my own journey and to get out (and stay out) there and unapologetically let my own light shine.

With that in mind, here is lesson #2 of 4 that I will be carrying with me – and hopefully you will as well:

2. Life is an audition – so make sure you are always you and always shine

Certainly, Prince surrounded himself by talent notorious for being the best in the business at whatever their craft or profession. But a significant portion of his professional family were not found in the most traditional ways. One stand out story was from Mark Brown of Prince’s band, The Revolution (also now a producer in his own right) who once happened to make Prince a bad-ass plate of pancakes at the diner where he was working when he was 15. He also happened to play guitar and sing – and wound up with an invitation that turned in to a dream career.

Several band members and dancers have similar stories. They were somewhere being the best of themselves and found they had caught the attention of a muse who would both be inspired by them and inspire them to live their calling.

What I take from this is the opportunity for all of us to be who we are full time. That may sound ridiculous as many of us feel that we are ourselves full time. But the thing is, what we do for a living, the places we go, the people we hang out with, the hobbies and interests we have aren’t who we are. We try on all sorts of roles to either express or stifle the love and purpose that we know ourselves to be on the inside.

I think the mistake is that when we play these parts we tend to piece together
a character based on what we think the audience wants to see. The trick is to
play the part while wholeheartedly taking on the character your possess
inside yourself, regardless of what you feel the expectations of onlookers are.

Prince did it everyday. He knew who he was , for better or worse, and never put in less than everything he had into every moment. Because of that commitment and dedication (and trust me, it’s hard work no matter how much of a superstar you become) he was able to recognize that energy in others and chose to surround himself by other radiating examples of authenticity . That is where he saw potential and decided to give those people a place on the stage that was his magical world so they could shine while they were with him and then find their own spotlight in the world, with Paisley Park forever in their hearts

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Categories: Art and culture, Culture, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

We’re Not Mourning The 80’s. We’re Returning To Them.

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I know what everyone has been thinking as we look gleefully forward to the end of 2016, with a desire to put the social and political turmoil behind us as well as say “good riddance” to the year that took several beloved artists from us.

We are thinking, “How did we lose so many of our treasured pop culture icons from the 80’s? Why them?”  “Why now?” From Bowie to Prince to George Michael and Carrie Fisher and even (yes) the guy who played ALF!

Those of us whose lives have been touched by these so-much-more-human-than-human artists  and the characters that were so near and dear to our hearts feel this deep sense of loss. However, at the same time as we have had to say goodbye to these incredible beacons of hope from the recent past, we have seen a resurgence of many other things from that same decade.

For example:
In pop culture: Zombies! (The 80’s did, after all, bring us a nearly un-countable number of  zombie movies as paid homage to in the video hit Thriller) and Vinyl (because records are a “thing” again).

In fashion: Mom Jeans and thick eyebrows (Brooke Shields?  Anyone?)

I know you’re thinking that I’m getting a little too trend-centric and pop-culture fluffy with it, but hang in there.  I have a point, I promise….

In politics:  Celebrity Presidents (in the 80’s, we had former actor Ronald Reagan.  Now we have Reality TV star and bombastic businessman, Donald Trump) , what will soon be the resurgence of a new kind of Trickle-down-economics (which is the Economic Policy closest in to what Trump’s platform is based on) and Russia! (in the 80’s we loved to hate  Mikhail Gorbachev and now we have Vladimir Putin to make fun of on our sketch comedy shows.

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Culturally speaking, the 80s were a time of emerging conspicuous consumption and status-based classism – lots of nouveau riche boughie types flocking to the cities and the single life…wearing fur coats, driving porsches and ferraris and splashing around in the idea of a glamorous  “Greed is Good” mentality toward American economic and cosmopolitain “progress.”

At the same time, Willy Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first concert that would turn in to a now 30 year-strong organization called Farm Aid to combat the suffering that middle America farm communities were going through due to rampant closing of family farms as corporations started taking over.

We saw a country ripped apart by fear caused by the AIDS epidemic – which initially targeted the Gay community, who was still living at the fringes and considered a somewhat alienated “unknown”.   It took the story of Ryan White – a young boy who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion – to humanize the epidemic and begin vital conversations in our country about sexual orientation and fear and inclusion. Not to mention the idea of coming together to begin finding searching for treatments and cures for a disease that nobody deserves to die from.

The 80’s also brought us Cable television – revolutionizing pop culture as we know it  – making it possible for us to see more and more of the America we thought we knew and beginning an era of overstimulation that would have us retreating back in to our shells of familiarity more than finding common ground because content was being pushed at us, but we didn’t have an internet to allow us to publicly react to what we are seeing.

These days we have replaced cable television with social media to maintain our echo-chambers.  But fortunately we also have ways to have conversations – should we choose to – with people who don’t look like us or live like us or even live near us.

The point I’m actually trying to make here is that, in losing the 80’s pop stars that have so obviously and publicly fallen this year, we are actually reminding ourselves of the good things that came out of a time and a mentality we seem to be regressing back in to for a moment.

You see, I spend a good amount of time studying culture and sociology and reading up on topics like  Spiral Dynamics and social science that focuses on Worldviews as well as topics like Generational Cycles Theory.   In my work, I apply my understanding of the world and it’s nuances and patterns of change to helping my clients understand how to evolve their business and the ways they communicate with the humans that buy their products.  And because I study this stuff and apply it to a consumer space all the time, I am also thinking about it constantly and looking at cues from pop culture to seek to understand our world.

This year – particularly toward the end – has had me wracking my brain trying to explain why all of this seemingly bizarre stuff is happening in our sociopolitical landscape;  the populist ideals, the xenophobia and the generalized seemingly backwards progress  (as many liberal, intellectual types like me and my peers might see it).   In the end, I am able to say, “well sure I saw this coming” – for a number of reasons stemming from the ways in which we have chosen to engage with one another in our mainstreaming digital world to other factors related to cultural, environmental and  economic factors.

But I end up left falling back on  platitudes like “it’s always darkest before the dawn” or “it’s gonna get harder before it gets easier” – yet still full of hope that we will get to the “easy” part soon.

That being said, the scientific disciplines mentioned above that focus on social change all tell us (as does history) that wen tend to evolve in a spiral-type way.

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But the thing about spirals is that you always have to go back a little bit in the direction you came from before you can move forward.

My point and hypothesis  is that THIS time is the time for our slight backwards movement and I believe we have chosen the 80’s as our touch-point for this devolution of sorts.  But ALSO per the loss of our 80’s icons like Prince and Bowie and Carrie Fisher, the actress behind the Iconic beacon-of-hope character Princess Leia)  I think we are being given sacrificial lambs as reminders of the wonderful progress that was made during these times.  In the article just linked to about Princess Leia, for example – the author reminds us that the real reason we love that character so much is because

 It’s about creative thinking, keeping it together when it counts, and outclassing every pretentious pencil pusher the Empire can throw her way.

 

Artists like Bowie and Prince  taught us to embrace our weird, to love ourselves for everything that we are and to let our true colors shine .  George Michael, through his music and very public human journey also taught us (in particular, the Gay community)  many life lessons about accepting who we are and not letting the world get us down.

Even ALF – who I reference as a HUGE fan, btw – taught us a good amount about how we see the world.  This affably bizarre alien reminded us that we are not alone in seeing how ridiculous everyday life can be and that it’s okay to laugh it off sometimes.

Truth be told, I still have an ALF doll in my office.  Whenever I feel like an Alien from another planet come to study humans and their ways, “he”  reminds me about the humor in all of it and that I chose to keep my eyes open because I love my fellow humans and I believe we are on a very profound, fast-tracked evolutionary path.

So as many of you mourn what you see as a loss and start throwing Molotov Cocktails at 2016 so as to obliterate the memory of it as we move in to a new year, take a moment to honor the memories of those beacons of hope who have been brought back in to our public consciousness once more to let us know that even though it seems like we are fighting an uphill battle sometimes,  we have the power of our light (and most likely The Force  as well) to guide us forward.

Rest in Peace, 1980’s AND 2016.  We will remember to learn our lessons from the past and keep them with us, along with the beauty and the joys that have propelled us forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: American Culture, american History, Art and culture, Culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adulting: Because Being a Grownup Should Only Be a Temporary Affliction

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I remember being a kid trying to figure out what set adults apart from the rest of the masses of “watery moles” (Thanks, Florence King,  for that reference I will be using often).  In my best estimation, they were bigger than kids, had breath that smelled like coffee, cigarettes, alcohol or artificial mint, drove unu scooters, watched news and complained about work.

They were there to make us eat vegetables, follow rules, go to bed early, live in fear of saying swear words and make sure our clothes matched.

Another common characteristics of the adults of the human species, in my estimation as well as the estimation of many of my peers – real and fictional (Peter Pan counts), is that they didn’t know how to be silly or have fun or otherwise prioritize imagination, spontaneity and the joys of getting dirty.

Generally speaking, it seemed that being a grown-up meant earning the right to make kids do stuff “because I said so” and avoiding answering questions like “why” – or just generally making the answers up.

Having been a human of adult age for quite some time now, I think it’s safe to say that my burgeoning anthropological-analysis skills were spot on.   Adults are generally just more serious “watery moles” who have entered a life stage seemingly devoid of fun.

Lets consider this concept of the adult / grown-up life-stage for a minute.
It’s one that I have been grappling with a good amount lately, both as a professional who studies culture and consults for companies and brands and as a human resisting the confines of conformity. 😉

I remember when i first started seriously examining the topic.  It was several years ago when, on what felt  like my “bazillionth” project helping clients understand “Millennials” (the seemingly perplexing generation of humans born sometime between the early 80s and the year 2000).  In particular, I had been forced to finally develop a framework (which still works today) that showed the divergent sets of life-stages being occupied by the “adult”-aged sub-sets of Millennials

You see – the world has changed a lot since their parents were kids. Hell – it had changed a lot (and continues to) since their parents had become parents.  There are and were a number of mitigating social, cultural, etc. circumstances that prevented adult-aged Millennials (let’s just go with 21+) from fitting neatly in to the “grown-up” mold.

The term “extended adolescence” had been thrown around for a while.  Lots of talk about “entitlement” (still present) and other forms of behavior associated with being young and naive.  The fact is, however – that there are / were adult Millennials still in a semi-dependent life-stage: relying on their parents for financial, emotional and otherwise logistical support navigating the transition to on-thief-own.  Then there is / was the group who – not even thinking about marriage yet – is / was enjoying the freedom of being on their own, having the money to “play” while exploring career options and working hard to make a name for themselves.  Then there is the group that most closely resembles the standard definition of an “adult” – those who are starting families and getting more serious about their professional lives whilst doing things like buying houses and new cars and starting to explore retirement savings plans.

But here’s the thing that, regardless of life stage,  seems to have come to pass as part of “Millennial” Adulthood and has also rubbed off on “the rest of us”.  The idea that “adulthood” (noun) doesn’t have to be a definitive end.  Rather – you can maintain the trappings of youth that help keep us all curious, creative, energized, fun and otherwise still interested in exploring this human experience from a naive and ultimately rewarding point of view.

You just have to realize that there are certain behaviors that constitute the “responsible” part of being an adult. Otherwise, the rest is crap and you should just scrap all preconceived notions of what an “adult” (noun) looks like.  Rather, just selectively practice the skills / art of “adulting” (verb).

As defined by urbandicitonary.com

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed.

You see, there are certain kid behaviors and characteristics that are super-valuable if you want to thrive as a human being.  For example:

Play:  this is behavior we do as kids to prepare ourselves for adult responsibilities.  But what separates play from adult responsibilities is that it is done for enjoyment, rather than for a serious or practical purpose.  We do the activities of play because they are fun.  We learn things, we experience consequences and then we brush them off.  Because it’s not so serious.  When we choose to be adults in the traditional sense we tend to take everything too seriously and always have an agenda – win or lose.

Fearlessness:  daring to express ourselves and test our limits without fear of reprisal or injury.  The sheer will to not care what people think and just boldly do what the voice at the core of our being tells us to do. We trust we can find the solutions to our problems, finding the best injury lawyer will come easily to us, should we need one, so slide a little.  Because even if you do get scraped up or break a bone or get your heart-broken – all of those things heal and we are better off for ware having had the experience.

Curiosity:  the audacity to ask “why” at every turn – to see the world with fresh eyes as often as prolifically as possible.  The need to have things explained to you “like a three-year old”  because “because I said so” is just not a good enough answer and if you ask “why” often enough you eventually find out that nobody really knows anything – that we are all making it up as we go along and that there is always room for interpretation and there is always more to learn.

Creativity:  perhaps the last bastion of childhood that some lucky and enlightened humans have been lucky enough to carry on in to their grown-up lives.  This is the art of envisioning the reality that you want and making it happen by any means necessary – even if it means coloring outside the lines or putting something out there that might be utterly imperceptible to others or simply allowing yourself to temporarily exist in a fantasy of your own imagining.  It’s the art of making yourself think beyond the tangible by allowing yourself to dream.  It is the behavior that allows newness in to the world. It is probably the single thing at the root of the other three behaviors / characteristics listed above.

But let’s not devalue the importance of “adulting” as a  behavior.  In balance with the childlike behaviors above, these acts are necessary for survival so we may free ourselves up to thrive. Example adulting behavior includes:

Holding down a job: showing up on time, completing tasks and otherwise establishing a track record of being able to support one’s self financial through delivery of a service to others and playing nice with other humans in pursuit of the same.

Paying taxes:  because somebody has to pay for all the things we take for granted, like roads and schools and feeding / caring for those who can’t support themselves.

Voting:  the act of being accountable for creation and direction of government so we don’t become a race of lemmings or victims. Nobody wants to fall off a cliff to their death simply because they didn’t take the time to learn what’s going on and punch a few holes in a piece of paper.  If you choose not to vote for your leaders you give up your right to complain.

Eating right:  deciding that the cake made out of fruity pebbles (it’s a real thing – i narrowly avoided that non-adulting behavior this morning) does not count as breakfast and realizing that in order to actually keep your adult body functioning so you can do all the cool stuff you want to do well in to your old age that you need to be careful about what you put in it.

Listening to others:  being mindful of hearing other people’s points of view and not just putting your fingers in your ears and screaming when someone is saying something you don’t want to hear.  The fact is, we don’t all agree and need to respect one another’s right to divergent opinions so we can get along in harmony.  The side benefit is that sometimes you learn something and often learn to empathize with your fellow humans simply by being open to new words or experiences that might bear similar motivations to your own.

Cleaning up: yourself, your home, your car, your desk,etc.  Because dirt = germs and chaos and cleanliness  = space to think, grow and thrive.  Also – a clean “anything” is more welcoming than a dirty one – which means you will invite more humans in to your world that you can play with. If you can’t seem to create a clean tidy enviroment for yourself, you could always hire from a company like, Denver Concierge’s house cleaning service. Then you just focus on your work and play!

That being said – it is all a delicate balance.  All work and no play makes any human a dull sack of flesh. But all play without accountability for one’s actions can lead to serious consequences.

But i think the new generations of adults (I refuse to use the “M” word anymore) have  taught us a few things about a life well lived.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing the lower paying job because you get to spend more time with your kids or taking the road less traveled because it looks like more fun.   And you don’t have to separate your creative self from your work life or not play at the office.

Life is a curious wonderful time where we spiritual beings get to have this awkward and amazing human experience.  Lets remember to enjoy the ride and – by all means – practice “adulting” responsibly, but NEVER EVER become a full-fledged grown-up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Hold the Soda: The Case for Ordering a Beer During the Work Week Lunch

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Many thanks to the team at Letsgraba.beer for their continued support of the Narcissistic Anthropologist and allowing me to contribute to their tumblr page from a “beer behaviorist” perspective.  The blog below was originally posted on their tumblr page, right here

“I’ll take a lager.”

A simple sentence that wouldn’t normally elicit any reaction during happy hour or a weekend.

But it’s a Tuesday at noon.

Since the start of my study around beer culture, I’ve been conducting a fun experiment:

I’ve swapped the expected lunchtime diet soda or iced tea for a beer at meetings with clients, colleagues and friends. The reaction usually falls into two camps: either that of the guilt-ridden worker or the unleashed rebel. I’ve heard everything from a resigned sigh coupled with “I wish it would be okay to have a beer, but I have to go back to work,” to a jubilant “Let’s start a revolution!”

Which made me think, why not a revolution or more of an act of solidarity among beer lovers? To make my case, here are three reasons to have #Beerswith our colleagues, friends and clients for lunch.

1. Beer time doesn’t have to mean “play” time.
Anthropological studies have shown that drinking in general is “already segregated and separated from work” and more of a nighttime activity, likely due to leftover social misconceptions from prohibition era. But these same studies also show that this attitude is far from universal. In cultures the world over, regrouping at lunch with a beer is just as common as the after-work drinking session.

In countries like Germany beer is such a vital part of the culture that not only is it normal to have a beer with lunch in a workplace setting, but it is also common to see the right to drink beer at lunch written into a employment agreements.

Based on studying beer lovers in the U.S., I hear time and time again how they feel some of their best procrastination-busting moments come after relaxing with co-workers for a few minutes over a beer. Just imagine what we could accomplish by shifting gears away from the “grind” mentality with an occasional office-hours beer.
2. Having #Beerswith colleagues is good for workplace morale.
From both an anthropological perspective and basic human reasoning, beer has long been regarded as a social leveler, and the act of getting together for a beer fosters communication between those of different ranks and status in society. In a workplace setting, allowing coworkers to enjoy the occasional brew at lunch (especially those on cross-functional teams or between bosses and their direct reports) can open up lines of communication. The mere presence of beer creates a relaxed, collaborative atmosphere that one wouldn’t get over a coffee break or around the water cooler.
3. Prohibition is Long Gone: Our forefathers suffered enough so we don’t have to.
Sad, but true. Drinking at lunch almost ruined beer for all of us. In the early 1900s, it was commonplace for pubs to offer “free lunch” with a purchase of an adult beverage, thus attracting the attention of the temperance movement. In the context of rampant unemployment of the time, day-drinking in exchange for free food represented a social ill that prompted extremist to side with banning booze altogether. It was this attack on the idea of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” that actually fed the temperance movement argument, ultimately leading to the passage of prohibition.
Today, let’s not judge ourselves by such antiquated rules. If you’re holding down a job, chances are you’re a responsible adult capable of drinking in moderation.
To sum suds it up, most beer lovers and Americans know how to enjoy beer responsibly – and sometimes the responsible thing to do is to trust and empower our employees, coworkers and ourselves to be a little more human and social. If we were able to repeal prohibition, then we should be able to also give ourselves permission to go back to our roots and enjoy a work day lunch with a beer. After all, there are plenty of lagers and sessionable ales that offer lower alcohol content for this mid-day occasion.

Fellow beer lovers – do your part – have #Beerswith – lunch and a friend this work week. Who’s in?

Categories: American Culture, Beer, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Humans of The Willamette Valley: A Celebration of Life

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon for the very first time and take an unexpected “side trip” about 90 minutes north to a town called Jefferson – which is located in the Willamette Valley.  To the hipster-come-borgeois bohemian “metro area” dwellers (not unlike myself), the Willamette Valley is the place where “those awesome Pinot Noir’s” come from.  A haven for wine lovers.

To my friend E and her family – it’s home.   That place she grew up playing in the blackberry bush brambles, living in a kid-paradise of both tamed and untamed nature and watching her Mother tend to the many plants and flowers in her greenhouse while her father worked in his.

E puts together a living as an Artist who does freelance design work.  She is an introvert by nature but you can tell she is retaining an intense light no doubt nurtured by the natural beauty she grew up in and parents who took great pride raising all kinds of living things – from plants and flowers to children – to bloom bright in whatever way nature intended.

E’s mother passed about 4 months ago; several months after E had moved back out there from the East Coast with her partner to care for her in her final battle with Cancer.

When I arrived in Portland for my conference (The World Domination Summit – which will absolutely be featured in another blog entry) – I got in touch to see if it was possible to get together while I was in town.   As it turned out – E’s entire family (all the brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins) would be arriving in just a few days for a planned Celebration of Life that Sunday to honor her Mother.   They hadn’t had a memorial service and – as it turns out, in the true spirit of her family – the preferred method of commemoration was that of a joyful gathering in the place and with the people her Mother loved most.

E and her partner extended an invitation for me to join them Saturday afternoon and evening for a family BBQ in advance of the big Sunday celebration – to let the Anthropologist in me see some more of Oregon and experience ” the native way of life”.  I think she actually used that term. 🙂  But I was just happy to see my friend and also secretly excited to see E’s Dad’s farm – where he has been growing organic medical marijuana among his other crops.  I had never seen anything like that except for on television and my curiosity was beyond peaked.  I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to the subject matter of  anything related to deviance (i even got a degree in it – of sorts and even if Marijuana is now technically Legal in Oregon and therefore no longer defined as “deviant” by law).

What I experienced that night was nothing off-the charts on an “indigenous ritual” scale.  Just a collection of loved ones grilling dinner and catching up – enjoying the comfort and discomfort of family interaction in anticipation of what would surely be an emotional day to follow.  But I did experience off-the-charts love oozing out of every person I encountered.  They welcomed me  – a stranger for all intents and purposes – in to their home with so much warmth during a very special and private time in their family’s journey together.

I am grateful for the reminder of my love for humankind and the reason why I chose this calling of observing, capturing and trying to make sense of the human experience.  Over the years I have learned that despite our many differences based on geography, demography, ethnicity, etc. that we have so much more in common than we know.

So I would like to share a celebration of life via a photo journal of  E’s family’s big heart-space in a relatively small part of the world.  As a gesture of gratitude to Honor E’s mother and the love in all of us, here are some captured images and moments from my “native experience” in Jefferson, Oregon:

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

It’s A Revolution! The Resurgence of Vinyl and Being Present

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I was raised on great music. Music we listened to in our “den” – usually on vinyl or cassette (once my older brother became a teenager and got a “Boom Box”) but still mostly on Vinyl.  My parent’s collection of Jazz and 70’s rock and Folk was a university course in music appreciation.

I was actually recently the lucky recipient of the entire collection, which my Mother has been looking to get rid of for years so she could redecorate her spare bedroom.

My wife also has a sizable record collection that includes everything from Disco Mickey Mouse to Prince to the entire musical score of Oklahoma.

We actually built out a room in our home to serve as both her teaching studio (she is a voice and singing instructor) as well as our “listening room”.  Since we finished the renovations last summer we have spent countless hours gathered around the turntable, whether with guests or simply alone with one another on an impromptu “date night”.  We comb  through the stacks of cardboard sleeves,  reminisce about the first times we’d heard those records and the moments in our lives they reminded us of and get our ridiculous “groove” on.

These are some of the best times I’ve had in years.  Why?  Because I had no idea where my iPhone was and didn’t care.  Because I’ve learned so much about the lives of my friends and loved ones.  Because i was unequivocally present in every moment, enjoying music as the energy that brings us all together.

In a recent post on my “business” website, my partner and I co-authored a blog about The Return of Vinyl: A Movement in Music and Presence.   In it, we marvel at the return vinyl and listening to records as a cultural trend gaining steady momentum.  We link it to the idea that, as a first-world culture where we spend an increasing amount of our  time and attention on things happening in the digital world, we have lost the art of making human connections “here on earth.”  We literally crave a respite from technology in favor of being present and enjoying simple pleasures – like listening to music, or having a conversation, or appreciating art just because it is there and evokes an emotion. If you want to know the newest technology advances check out A Simple Pine Box where you will find the best laser cutter.

Records bring us back to a time before the digital when, if you wanted to enjoy music, you went to your local record store and poured through the stacks, had conversations and made connections with the other humans around you, however different, based on your shared love of music.

The act of listening to a record is one that forces us to be present.  It’s good medicine for a world that can seem sometimes detached and bitter.   Sharing the music means sharing the love – and sitting down to listen to some vinyl for a while means you allow yourself to let life revolve around the music.

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Honoring America’s Love of Beer

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As with most things in a narcissistic anthropologists life, our emerging passions become contextual obsessions of sorts. We believe that if we have an affinity for something, then there must be a rich cultural significance around it – and we will stop at nothing to find and share that anthropological enthusiasm with our fellow humans. Because they deserve to know and love the things we hold dear.

You’re welcome.

It is no secret from those who know me that I enjoy a well-timed and finely crafted (or sometimes just cold – or sometimes just in a glass) alcoholic beverage. I developed a passion for the craft cocktail during some fieldwork on spirits trends (I know, life is hard) several years ago. My wife introduced an appreciation for wine. Well, really mostly wine drinking while she does the more serious “appreciating”.

Over the past few years, however, another benevolent spirit has entered my world. Beer has been finding it’s way into my restaurant and bar patterns – from cocktails made with beer, to food pairing and ultimately a refreshing addition of variety into my imbibing and social routine.

So it’s only appropriate that I have now been engaged as a professional social scientist sponsored by Lets Grab a Beer http://www.letsgraba.beer to do what I do best and “dig” in to the cultural history and present social context of beer.

I hear you. I keep getting the really tough gigs.

But here is what I promise. I will continue to periodically share my findings along with my anthropological perspective on the interesting topics surrounding beer drinking behavior and why you should care.

Again, you’re welcome.

So lets start with a few fun things I have learned thus far in my social exploration of beer:

Perhaps the most affirming cultural context of beer is this fact (or what some might call a convenient data coincidence) that I found recently: neatly packaged in the infographic below connecting beer to the founding ethos of our American way of life: Democracy! That’s right – in most free (or at least partly free) countries, you also find that the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage is our freedom-loving foamy friend, Beer. At least according to the sound logic presented in the comparative “beer” an “democracy” maps below:

beer-democracy1

Then there’s my favorite quote about our fine fermented friend, which comes from one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin, who said: “Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.”

But wait, I have one moreexciting fact! did you know that April 7th  is National beer day?! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Beer_Day_(United_States? That’s right. Our great United States and the powers that be recognize this national treasure as something to be honored with a day of focused appreciation.

In light of this context that is no doubt worthy of celebration, I have decided, in my narcissistic wisdom, that I ought to write a toast to honor our sudsy buddy in appreciation of its irreplaceable place in our lives and on our bar tabs. So here it goes:

An Ode to Beer

 In our hearts and minds

Traditions bind

Of rituals we hold dear.

Like finding friends

When the workday ends

To share an ice cold beer.

 In any season

For any reason

Be you rich or poor

Taking time to stop

We pop our tops

And enjoy just one more.

To suds with class

We raise a glass

For a spirit tried and true.

Whether lager or ale

We say “all hail!”

To America’s favorite brew!

Be sure to incorporate this as a toast when you buy your first round of beer on National Beer Day.  Or tonight.

And thanks again to my sponsors at http://www.letsgraba.beer !

keep-calm-it-s-almost-beer-o-clock-5

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Kindness As Cultural Currency

kindness

The other day I was having a chat with a few “fellow travelers” – one of whom is a C suite executive for a pretty big global company. He had been dealing with a lot of management stress and in-fighting amongst his leadership team and was talking about a call they had over the holiday break and how he made a conscious decision to take the reigns and change the tone of the conversation. He decided to react to stress and angst with an unlikely maneuver: kindness. He said the experience that followed was nothing short of amazing. It shifted the entire tone of the conversation – diffusing the tension and allowing the team to get down to work and see the light at the end of the tunnel so much more clearly.

As I was stuck in traffic this morning, recalling this story it occurred to me that I finally understood the phrase “kill ‘em with kindness”.   What it meant to me in that moment was that kindness is the antidote to our darkest shadows. It literally neutralizes our demons and gives humans who receive it permission to access their own light – and share it with others.   So, kindness – in a very direct way – equals death – which ultimately is an opportunity for renewal and rebirth.

So lets stop and reflect for a minute on the frame we are trying to bust here. When we think of words like kindness as a counter to aggression, some might conjure images of pacifists – draft dodgers, pot smoking, acoustic-guitar stroking hippies and a sort of weak, vapid resistance rooted in disconnected idealism. But what is hidden beneath the surface is a strength that rarely gets recognized.

That strength is knowing the power of love as a force for positive change. It is the courage to use something stronger than weapons of war to connect to our most basic human values and needs and the wisdom to know that squeaky wheels might get grease but ultimately get worn down.

After all – we wouldn’t exactly call someone like Gandhi weak, would we? But he represents the epitome of leading with kindness and love – and in so doing moving mountains of human culture toward progress.

We have seen this shift in the culture of marketing and brands as I elaborated on in my last blog post. And it’s looking like the culture of the C Suite may also be moving in that direction – if my friend’s aforementioned experience is any indication. This also has strong implications for the way corporations and brands will need to engage their customers to develop winning strategies – which I talk about in more detail on my business blog

So, I say today is a good day to die to the “greed is good”, cola-wars culture as we usher in a new era of kindness. Let the army of the amiable advance!

Categories: Consumer Culture, Culture | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Love, Haters and Hipsters: The Irony of Being A Millennial

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I have officially decided that I’ve  spent too much time commenting on a recent Facebook thread started in the last day  by fellow bloggers Eve Kerrigan, Rachel Gall and Anna Akbari, about a recent article on Millennials called  “Generation Wuss” by Vanity Fair’s Bret Easton Ellis.

I am, however, compelled to share and express my very “special” point of view in a blog post.  No, I’m not an “entitled millennial”,  just a Narcissistic Anthropologist who needs a fix.   Also as someone who has been studying, marketing and helping  to develop brands and products for Millennials since before they were even getting their first driver’s licenses  – I have a point of view on the topic.

I honestly say that I feel a great deal of empathy for this cohort who has been the object of intense scrutiny and marketing-targeting since they started getting an allowance.  They had the distinct privilege of growing up during the evolution of the information age and I think it’s safe to say that everyone feels we are officially at a point of “TMI”. The aforementioned article dishes out some tough love for what he essentially chalks up to a  hypersensitive and seemingly ill-prepared-for-life cohort.

Lets take a step back and reflect upon this generation that entered the consumer world with so much love and fanfare.

 Lets start with the love.   Their parents – mostly boomers – decided that they were going to love them with all their hearts  – and the fierce dedication of a tiger protecting it’s prey. They gave them everything they didn’t get from their parents in the form  of constant cradling with self-esteem focused education.

They also gave their time: micromanaging every aspect of their school and extra-curricular lives to make sure they grew up to get into the “right” college and become successful, well-rounded adults.  They encouraged their passions and told them they could be anything they wanted to be when they grew up.  And after 9-11, when the sub-prime crash happened and we seemed to “lose everything” – they became the epitome of close-knit families.  Which is good – because as the young adults were graduating college with no job-prospects to speak of there was a home for them to come back to until (some are still waiting) they could get out of the nest and get on their feet.

keep-calm-interview

But lets remember that their parents aren’t the only ones who have loved them.

Millennials have been the object of the marketing community’s affection ever since they started being able to count money.  Not only did they begin their lives during a period of economic prosperity, which gave them above-average spending power from a young age, but since their parents also wanted to be their best friend’s and openly engage them in household dialogs they have always had a huge influence on family purchases as well – everything from groceries to home electronics to Mom’s next car.

35rhxh1

Then they started to grow up – and the haters came out of the woodwork – especially when they entered the workforce.  Employers couldn’t handle their neediness – for work-life balance that kept them from wanting to live for work, for rapid career advancement, for constant feedback on their day-to-day performance and for their boomer colleagues to be their best friends and family.

Given what some would call their coddled upbringing, it stands to reason that they entered the “real world” in a state of fantasy – believing in their infinite value and that the world has been waiting on pins and needles for them to com share their specialness.  And the disappointment has been palpable as HR organizations scramble to retain and grow their next generation of worker-bees while Millennials began experiencing a “Quarter-Life Crisis” – dropping out of the corporate world to go back to school and re-learn or to create careers out of their passions, less they end up like their parents who gave their lives to their jobs and lost everything as the market crumbled to pieces.

But unlike other generations – Millennials don’t have to go back to square one and stew when things got tough.  They have  globally-wired communication to share their woes – and to seek affirmation from their peers.  Social media means they can find friends by the hundreds and thousands to affirm their contributions great and small.  The blogosphere has provided a medium for their musings and media has provided a soap-box for their angst.  So, not only do they get to put it all out there, but they also get to suffer the consequences  – among them being barraged by generationally-driven editorial backlash by those who find the Millennial point of view to be insufferable.

It’s no wonder that hipster culture emerged as the Millennial embodiment of Irony.

If nothing else, this is a generation who knows how to poke fun at their situation and themselves and use social schizophrenia as a way to play with the concept of adulthood. What else  can a generation do that grew up being adored and are now dodging bullets from every direction – whether it be economic or simply socially un-empathetic.  They were blown up into big beautiful, colorful balloons and then popped the minute they left their padded homerooms. But they are finally growing up and finding their “option C”  by creating new concepts.

baltimore-crosswalk

They are adults and young adults who place tremendous value on play.  They put serious energy into social commentary in the form of cartoons and couture.  The mating game has become quite literal with apps like Tinder.  They raise funds for entrepreneurship as a team via platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe.  They Instagram their exploration of the world – like a  virtual refrigerator filled with art class projects  and they will never EVER stop wearing Chuck Taylors to work.

I for one am excited by the energy I see entering the workforce – and the fortune 500 warriors who are doing their best to help this generation make their way.  I am also impressed by how Millennials are waking up to their collective purpose – to create a new world that works for them – and asserting that power using their consumer clout.   I know at least the world-class brands and marketers I work with have been eagerly engaging very deeply to understand this generations unique context and develop brands and business models that are far more empathetic – no tot mention building business organizations to nurture and groom their future leaders.

I also think that the collective cultural kick-in-the-pants that Millennials have been getting is preparing them well for the road a head.  It’s good for them to have to fight a battle and know that they can win – and they will win.  But here’s the deal – when this generation steps up to take the gold medal that they actually earned, I know in my heart of hearts that they will take the haters with them.

Because this generation of sensitive superheroes is actually all about the love – and they have been taught to share.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Experiencing “Old School”: The Middle-Aged Mosh Pit

So, I was enjoying an extended happy hour at my favorite local pub – out on the patio watching folks walk by, when a punk rock couple – complete with mohawk and combat boots – ambled on by.

Here I was thinking “nice to see the neighborhood getting more bohemian and diverse” when I was informed that there was indeed a concert happening around the corner at one of Atlanta’s iconic concert venues – Masquerade.

The show: Bad Religion, Offspring and Pennywise.

I was instantly transported back to high school and remember going to see these bands’ shows. I think one was my senior year….twenty years ago!!!

My friend and I were immediately compelled to go re-live our youth. We walked to the venue down the street, got our tickets, our “you’re over 21 and can drink” bracelets (which – when we were in high school going to all ages shows were typically the “you’re under 21 so don’t let me see you drinking” bracelets)  and headed to the bar, excited to get our drinks and join all the “kids” outside at the big show.

And when I say “kids”, this is not what I was expecting:

Punk Rock Kid

Yes…that would be a child on his dad’s shoulders.

I don’t know why I thought that a concert for a band I saw 20 years ago would have an audience full of 20 year olds. Perhaps I was a little delusional.
The reality was the entire venue was filled with people around my age: late 30’s and early 40’s.

Then I decided that this was actually a really cool thing! My generation still knows how to party. We’re all at a “punk” show -doing shots and bouncing in the rain to super-loud guitars!! It was AWESOME! I decided it was time for the mosh pit and mustered up all my frenetic energy to go throw some elbows….

For future reference I have learned that a mosh pit full of 30-and-40-something’s might as well be a “does my insurance cover that” pit.

And if I hadn’t realized yet that I was at a concert for old people trying to be young people it became an acute reality when Offspring finished their set – and 75% of the sweaty, mildly intoxicated concert-goers (who decided not to stick around for the last band because It was “getting too late”) filed out with me to the street.

It was 9:45.

I patted myself on the back for knowing I would be in bed before midnight and perfectly lucid for my morning conference call.

I may have accepted my lot in life as a full-fledged grown up and that my moshing days may be behind me but I will remain grateful that at least my generation had music that rocks!! And that we are “hardcore” enough to bring our toddlers to punk shows.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Participant Observation, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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