Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Huffington Post: David Everitt-Carlson - "What Today's Mad Men Can Learn From Occupy Wall Street"

Last week I was interviewed by Jerry Ashton, correspondent for the Huffington Post, on Occupy Wall Street and the post is up as of yesterday. The complete print interview can be found here. A radio interview covering the same topic can also be found, on WGRN radio - but beware, spring showers had made my voice a bit more whiskey & cigarette-tinged than I might have liked without the actual whiskey and cigarettes. In either case I opine on things Madison Avenue could learn from Occupy Wall Street and a few tricks Occupy could learn from the Mad Men as well. Young men and women in the advertising business start their careers as if they were going to change the world. How to keep that spirit is what's up for discussion. It's all interesting - these seemingly diametrically opposed worlds I traverse. Fun? For sure. Profitable? We're working on that:)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Madison Avenue Can Learn From Occupy - and Vise Versa

I had lunch yesterday with a Huffington Post columnist and he had asked me about how I equated my Occupy work with my commercial work - the two seemingly being diametrically opposed - but not I think. Just two different ways of skinning cats. Lunch turned into an interview on the headline concept here I had supposed to him and I'll be interested to see what is arrived at. I was asked to give 5 support points on the topic, but even now I'm changing thoughts. Both advertising and Occupy make you think. Just about different things. I think I can certainly explore on that more - and will, once the other writer gets his story. More later...

The complete interview is up on Huffington Post now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Occupy Wall Street Forecloses on Bank of America ... Every Night

Sleeping protected
as a form
of self expression
According to the New York Times, seizing the upper hand in the battle to maintain a 24 hour occupation in New York City, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have repelled the NYPD with a paper shield in the form of a 12 year-old Federal Court order that allows "sleeping as a form of public expression" and spent a number of nights in front of Bank of America at Union Square and two other banks in the area. Brandishing a large paper facsimile (mounted on previously declared illegal cardboard) Occupiers moved onto public sidewalks adjoining the banks on April 6th and have maintained a nightly vigil for over a week without arrest or serious incident. "So long as we're not making noise, obstructing pedestrian traffic or doing any other thing that could be construed as disorderly conduct, we're cool", explained one of the nightly Occupiers at BoA. The reaction from the NYPD has been even more interesting as winter warms into an American Spring that could make Rodney King proud. A feeling of "Can't we all just get along?" pervades both fronts on the sidewalks at night, contrasting greatly with the general shock and awe tactics of the police plus park rangers in Union Square during the day. Firmly knocking on the wooden table at which I sit and compose this missive at the Apple store, I sense a reshaping of tactics that may be the heart of allowing Occupy and mayor Bloomberg's self described personal army to get along as the Occupation now sets it's sites on breaking up Bank of America as a first anniversary present to itself come September this year. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. My experience the last three nights shows that both Occupy and the NYPD can play cat and mouse with equal aplomb. 

There goes the
04.08.12 - On the heals of a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi that described Bank of America as "the world's worst-behaved teenager, taking your car and running over kittens and fire hydrants on the way to Vegas for the weekend" Occupy's mainstream media described l'enfant terribles rolled up to the BoA at the corner of 14th St. and University place almost making it look like the neighborhood was gentrifying and pushing out the neighbors that had caused property values across the US to plummet in the wake of a massive sub-prime mortgage crisis the bank helped to perpetuate. As it has become the practice for the NYPD to close Union Square Park at midnight with the placing of hundreds of barricades to block entrance whilst deploying another few hundred zip-tie-handcuff armed police inside the barricades to make sure Occupiers really don't want to go there, demonstrators have opted out of being arrested in favor of just taking a real legal eagle nap and possibly having a little pizza before bedtime. All they need to do is leave the park and head across the street to BoA, Citibank, or others surrounding the park. Currently the sidewalks beside three banks host Occupiers with sleeping bags in safe, well-lit locations where the only thing missing might be the mints on the pillows. Wake-up calls, however are de rigueur and provided by smiling NYPD officers who are starting to look like they just might be enjoying that rolled up legal document that's been shoved up their butts. Friday night turns into Saturday morning without incident and smiling, cheery police officers were not uncommon as protesters awaken at 8 and are pretty much told by the nanny state to "go to work".

Easter preoccupied
04.09.12 - Midnight Easter morning rolls around and one might have thought that Occupiers and their babysitters were planning an Easter egg hunt. The Washington Post National edition declares that Occupiers were holding a "slumber party" and a movement, now renowned for their horizontal structure, takes the same position in relation to speaking out. Horizontally. But before it's time to snooze Occupiers schlepp the 'People's Library' from the park to the sidewalk adjacent BoA and can be seen reading, sharing a cache purchased from Taco Bell as well as sharing the days stories as the Occupation doesn't so much wear thin on Occupiers but quite possibly wears tiresome on the city coffers. The New York Times reports again that so far 17 million dollars have been spent on the Occupy police detachment while mayor Michael Bloomberg proceeds to layoff 4,675 teachers - a total of 6% of all the city's public school teachers.  Officer Lombardi, a real hard case from old Zuccotti days looks quizzically at a bunch of people he can't arrest because they aren't breaking any laws and then comes up with some didly shit just to give people a hard time. "You can't sleep on arranged plastic milk cartons with cardboard on top because that's considered a structure"- really important stuff considering that the crime rate continues to climb in the 5 boroughs as 400 officers are kept on reserve just to police the avowed non-violent Occupiers. And the crime? Hmm. Sleeping. But, not a crime, so some other crimes will need to be found to justify all those cops. But not this night. Midnight has turned into Easter Sunday, even Lombardi is tired and there are eggs to be hidden at home by the younger officers on patrol who can't quite remember this sequence from the training films they saw at the academy. All quiet on the occupied front. Good night John Boy.

NYPD nightlights
04.10.12 - As the next day rolls in so does a refreshed shift of newly minted officers. Seniority keeps the oldsters at home on holiday and fresh grads are shipped in to handle the Occupiers. And it is far from a fair fight. Piling out of two squads these fresh faced defenders of the public trust try to figure out who's going to be the leader and approach a leaderless movement. Lumbering up to the wall of reclining Occupiers an officer who must have studied Jack Web in his training days, says. "Ok, boys, you're gonna have to move".  "Why?" a seasoned Occupier and six-year veteran of the streets counters. "Because you're on private property, you're all homeless, and they want to steam clean the sidewalk", returns officer unfriendly. Hidden muffled snickers abound from the Occupy camp, "Jeeziz", you can almost hear the NY Occupiers say. "They never steam clean the frigging sidewalk". Seeing this is going nowhere another officer sheepishly says, "I don't know, I've never been here, I don't know what to do" and turns back to the pack as our Occupier of the moment proceeds to take the first big mouth apart by citing what is public and what is not, what is legal and what is not, and another eloqutes how he has seen the city's homeless shelters and declares that this sidewalk is cleaner and safer than the lot of them and he's not moving an inch. Time to call for back-up.  And so on the day following Easter, a paddy wagon is parked on the corner with a flashing rack of lights left on all night, just to warn the citizens, that an Occupier might wake up and go fishing through whatever food they have left from the previous day's kitchen stash. And all in front of Bank of America.

Some days, it hard to decide what real or not, what's true or not. When the richest man in New York marshall's his 'personal army' to defend just one of the banks who has systematically robbed the American people, and the people have marshaled their right to defend their money - where does it all end? Occupier and organiser Nelini Stamp says in AlterNet news“We want to highlight that banks steal homes.” Occupiers at the Union Square location remain intent on just just stealing a few winks on the zombie bank's public sidewalk to make that point. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Art Police - Up to Their Old Tricks, as Always

A cardboard summons
Back at Union Square for just less than two weeks Occupy had found a more resilient and friendly park for Occupation but the NYPD kept odd stride in enforcing whatever laws they could just make up with the help of the Federal Parks Department - rangers that actually have jurisdiction in the actual park and not the sidewalk surrounding. With an age-old Occupy hobby of making snarky signs, Occupiers found themselves battling with police (figuratively of course) over cardboard. Yes. Cardboard.  New rule says you can't have any cardboard on the ground - cardboard signs that is. Never mind that other park people, let's say chess players and other artists can have cardboard as part of their displays - it's the Occupiers who can't have any cardboard. And since I was wearing an Occupy t-shirt, and painting funny cardboard signs, that meant me.

Expensive speech
And so, in line with too many artists from the past, I found myself with a summons for 'unlawful vending' ($250), a charge that shouldn't stick because artists are not technically vendors and instead are just exercising their first amendment rights to free speech - be it artistic speech - yet we are able to take donations for the work. But that's not how the boys in green (Federal Park Rangers) want to see it. And so the routine went like this: One ranger came by and told me that all art needed to be 12" off the ground, and I said, "I can do that" - so I got some boxes and put the 'art' on the boxes. Then another ranger came by and said the 12" wasn't good enough, that the work must be on a table. And so I said, "I can do that", and proceeded to fashion the boxes into the shape of a table. A cardboard table. "Whoop Whoop!" That's the sound of the siren on the ranger-mobile. This time ranger Charlemagne was on the street adjacent to the sidewalk where art can be shown and motioning for me to come to his truck. Once there he tells me that 'table' meant a portable table with folding legs and assures me that he can produce documentation to support the claim. I argue that the cardboard legs of my table fold, but that of course, gets me absolutely nowhere.

Looking at the ticket above you'll see that the ranger had a choice of fines to assess, from $25 to $250. He chose $250. Bad cardboard, bad cardboard. And so on May 15th I will go to the court and argue the charge. Other artists at the park assure me that it will be dropped on the grounds of my art being a protest and that my medium specifically is cardboard. We'll see. In whatever case, I will waste 1/2 a day and if the officer shows up, he will be paid an overtime rate for his trouble. I, of course, will be paid nothing + the nothing I got for setting my display up in the first place. This is the price we all pay for living in a police state, a state where law enforcement can illegally enforce any law they dream up (whilst being paid a living wage) and the citizens must pay to defend themselves against the state.

Enter Robert Lederman. "Lederman is perhaps best known as the artist who painted hundreds of satirical portraits of NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani had Lederman falsely arrested, but never once convicted, more than 40 times between 1994 and 2000. The Giuliani portraits appeared thousands of times in the media during the Giuliani era and were a constant subject of controversy during those years. Lederman was featured in the documentary It’s Giuliani Time. His successful lawsuits made it legal to sell art on the street without a license, in NYC Parks without a permit and to protest without a permit on the steps of the U.S. Capitol."

As the officer was giving me my ticket I asked him if he was aware that there was a jobs crisis in America these days (probably the most notable underlying reason for the Occupy movement) and that he was stopping me from making even a street artist living. No response. I then told him that he could go home assuredly that night and tell his children how he had made America a better country that day. No response. Of course.

No doubt a host of headhunters and possible work contacts will be reading this post and wondering what this guy is up to doing street art activism (I spent the week sending out work queries) - and to them I say this: "You want to inspire the troops? You want your staff, or clients, to see what survival and creativity and persistence of freedom of speech and commerce looks like in real terms - in street-cred terms?" Show them a picture of me sitting on the ground painting, surrounded by 20 officers. That photo will get the company a whole lot more respect than a nice picture of me in a suit doing a Powerpoint presentation - no matter how damn good I might look in the suit.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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