The Random Griffith

So I finished my FAWM songs

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 28/02/2010

Done. I’d holler “yahoo” or “woohoo,” but those exclamations seem to have been appropriated by corporations, so I’ll just do a quick guido fistpump and shout a simple “yay!” And while last year I was able to knock them out every day, this year the process moved a bit slower. But now I have 14 new songs, and now I’m going to start recording them, or doing cheesy home demos, and then I will post the MP3s here.

I’m not sure I like to carry myself around like an “I’m a serious songwriter” kinda guy, but if you pin me down, I am. It’s what I love doing most of all, and what really makes me happy. Love the process, love shaping them, love practicing them, love performing them and love hearing your reactions. And I love other people’s music, too. Going into this February challenge, I had two favorite songs, both of them evergreens, or chestnuts, or whatever they call classic old tunes that everybody knows. The first one is “That Lucky Old Sun,” written in 1949 by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie, and originally popularized by Frankie Laine. Here’s a Johnny Cash performance from his 1976 Christmas special:


I kinda love the cheesiness of the presentation here, although his later, more rugged version really works, too. And love the Ray Charles version, and, well, a lot of different versions. It’s a beautiful secular gospel song, with allusions to crossing the river Jordan, or Styx, or just plain old shuffling off this mortal coil, along with wonderful pictures of the pains of everyday life juxtaposed with the hope for something better. Most of all, it makes me happy and sad at the same time, which is to say it reaches me emotionally. In my book, that’s a good thing.

My other favorite song is just as classic, “What a Wonderful World.” I used to think this was hardcore cheese, until one day the lyrics hit me like a sledgehammer. It was written sometime in the 1960s by George David Weiss and George Douglas, the latter a pseudonym for Bob Thiele. If you love jazz, you probably know Thiele ran ABC Paramount Records’ Impulse label in the 1960s, and he produced a bunch of great John Coltrane albums, not to mention such other stellar acts as Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Charles Mingus and much more; he also was married to singer Teresa Brewer. The Louis Armstrong version was recorded in 1968. The song exists out of time and space; it’s just cosmic.


Of course, I would love to write something one-tenth as cool and sweet and cosmically transcendent as either of these two songs. I haven’t done it yet, but I keep trying. I think this year’s batch of tunes is pretty good, so check back here and judge for yourself. And if you’re free on March 19, I hope to play the whole thing, or at least most of them, at Luna’s Cafe. Here’s the lyrics to the final song, “If I Could Turn Back the Clock.” It’s another waltz, this time with kind of a Burt Bacharach meets Philly soul vibe. I love waltzes. And I am looking forward to cooler tomorrows, but the song seemed to call for these lyrics, so I revisited the past a bit.

I can dream
But it doesn’t seem to do me any good
Now that you’re gone from my world
From my todays and tomorrows
And you always said “Baby don’t look back
Everything you have is in front of you
Don’t live in the past”

Now I see
How you were setting me up for sorrow
You’d soon be gone from my world
And though I’m here in the present
Pictures from the past feelings deep inside
Thoughts of you and me pull me back in time
Still they haunt me now

If I could turn back the clock to that first night we kissed
I would walk through the agony of losing you again
Just for one shot of the sweet love we shared
If I could turn back the clock I’d still go there

Set me free
No, you’re gone forever and you don’t care
I know it’s all up to me
Time that I let go and moved on
Yes I know it’s true there will come a time
When all you will be is a memory
But I’m still not there now

If I could turn back the clock to that first night we kissed
I would walk through the agony of losing you again
Just for one shot of the sweet love we shared
If I could turn back the clock I’d still go there

If I could turn back the clock to that first night we kissed
I would walk through the agony of losing you again
Just for one shot of the sweet love we shared
If I could turn back the clock I’d still go there

I can dream

And now, um, yeah. Better start recording already. —Jackson Griffith

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When BMW was cool

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 27/02/2010

Nothing against “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” but there was a time when Bayerische Motoren Werke AktienGesellschaft manufactured cool cars and motorcycles. Now, I still dig some of the blue propeller’s cars and bikes, but the company makes some rather pointless SUVs these days, also, and it manufactures them in wingnut “right to work” states like South Carolina — which may be why the BMW marque has such strong cachet with Republicans and other right wingers. And truth be told, right now if I had the big bucks to blow on a hot rod, I’d be signing up for the forthcoming Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, just so I could get my guido on and confound everybody who’d think a crunchy-granola lefty-left post-hippiedip bicycle kook like me would opt for a Prius. I grew up in Stockton, California, if that helps anyone figure out my aesthetic baseline. Dean Martin is still my go-to guy for ultimate style.

Bimmer acquired the Sir Alec Issigonis Mini franchise when it bought British Leyland, or Rover, or whatever they were calling it that week, and then jettisoned everything else, selling MG and Rover to the Chinese, unloading Jaguar and Land Rover to Ford, which later sold those brands to Indian up-and-comer Tata Motors. And who knows what happened to Wolseley and some of the other cool marques in the Leyland parts bin, like Austin, Morris, Riley and Triumph? Minis are cool and all, even if BMW is extending the brand to the Clubman and Countryman wagons, which means the stretch limo can’t be far off. But back in the 1950s, Bimmer built an even cooler mini.


Of course I’m talking about the Isetta, an Italian design with a 12-horsepower one-banger motorcycle engine and a door on the front of the car. These things were reasonably ubiquitous when I was a kid, at least in Stockton, which in retrospect was some kind of paradise for weirdo Euro cars, because I remember a lot of them. Or maybe there were a lot of oddball (non-Volkswagen) Euro makes in ’50s and ’60s California, before Toyota and Nissan (ne Datsun) and the other Japanese makes wiped the Europeans off the playing field.


I always wanted one of these cars when I was a kid, just because of the novelty of being able to open the front of the car to get inside. I mean, how cool is that? Maybe it isn’t the most practical thing in the world, and I’m not sure what the proper German word for “deathtrap” might be, but I’m sure it applies. Even the clown car 600 model seems pretty sweet from a utilitarian point of view.



Let’s hear it for “Bee Emm Vee”: It’s not just for Republicans anymore. —Jackson Griffith

You were needing something to sing today? Goggomobil, baby!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 27/02/2010

I often awaken searching for a snappy tune to get my day going. As long as it isn’t, oh, a vintage Mentos jingle or anything, I’m pretty well set. But sometimes there are songs that get in the ear and stay there, and when they’re combined with a car as nifty as Germany’s postwar Goggomobil, well ….


Tell me you could resist that. Well, probably you could, but I’m pretty weak in that department. Just give me some lieder and an accordion backing, and I’m pretty well squared away. Goggomobil produced cars in the Bavarian town of Dingolfing from 1955 until 1969; apparently the company was absorbed into the BMW beast in Munich.



I just love these ads. They’re so goofily German, and the cars are pretty cool, too. I’d own one in an instant. And perhaps we’re heading toward urban environments with chronically underpowered cartoon cars. Which gets no argument from me. I’d rather see something on the road out of Robert Crumb’s sketchbook than all those Hummers and Escalades. Goggomobil, jawohl! —Jackson Griffith

Hip up to Baroo-baddo!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 26/02/2010

Please, no offense to the Japanese, but I’ve been entertained by Japanese ads for years. I used to buy Japanese car mags written in kanji-hiragana-katakana with random Jingrish and then I would lay around practicing the sort of behavior that makes one laugh at butter and make a ritual out of baking chocolate chip cookies, and then I’d settle in and crack up at adverts with copy that said stuff like “We are special Golf make shop” (aftermarket products for Volkswagens, I’d guess) and “The aweness of its white silence.” But now with YouTube, we can cut to the chase and watch funny Japanese car ads from the period any time we’d like.


Not sure what makes me laugh most about this Mitsubishi Galant ad. I think the idea of “Hip Up Coupe” may be the clincher; I think “hip up” is going into my vocabulary starting right now. You’d better hip up, pally. I hipped up to those Ron Schmeck sides. This whole darn town is hipping up to civet catpoop coffee. Anyway, I think at this point these Mitsubishis were sold in the U.S. as Dodge/Plymouth Colts.


“Nyuu Baroo-baddo” screams the ad copy. Nissan has some funny names for its cars in Japan; American rice rocket fans will recognize this sedan and coupe as the Datsun 510, which with the addition of stiffer shocks could give the Bimmers of the early ’70s a run for the money. In its time and place, the 510 was one of the finest imports offered for sale in America. Another Nissan product from the 1960s, the Fairlady, was rebranded the Datsun 240-Z in the U.S., for pretty obvious reasons.



More Nissan genius, this time for “Dynamic Bluebird.” I love the snappy songs, and the posing actors. I think Datsun used the same ad agency for its U.S.-market ads at first, too, because I remember they were as aggressively forceful as these Japanese ads.


I love this ad. Prince is another Japanese carmaker that was absorbed by Nissan, and I think the current Gloria is something in the Infiniti lineup in the U.S. now (I could be wrong; I’m too lazy to look it up, but I did anyway; the Gloria ended production, but the last iteration made it here as the Infiniti M45). Anyway, this guy is great: He’s totally pissed off and butthurt about everything, until a sip of brandy or whatever he’s quaffing reminds him of the bliss-inducing experience of driving a mid-’60s Japanese sedan.

I’ve got a bunch of these bookmarked. And some pretty funny German ads from the 1950s, too. If you’re extra nice and tell me you like this stuff, like by writing me a little note here, I’ll post more.

So hip up, compadres. —Jackson Griffith

I think I may need to hit an Indian buffet pretty soon

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 26/02/2010

So I finished writing this oddball little rock tune called “Aloo Samosa,” named after those potato and pea dumplings you get in Indian restaurants, which taste really great when you dip them in tamarind or mint chutney, then counter the savory flavor with a sip of sweet of mango lassi, and well, I’ll shut up before I get all hungry and stuff.


At any rate, I’ve managed to write 13 songs for the February Album Writing Month challenge this year, and I’m either going to write a swing for the fences Burt Bacharach-style ballad I have half-constructed in my head, or else something else. Dunno. At any rate, Here are the lyrics for “Aloo Samosa,” which kind of sounds like Cheap Trick turned inside out and sideways, then played by various members of the Lollipop Guild:

Ah, sweet lassi, you’re no rerun dog anymore
And what I fancy, culinary big Bangalore

A benghan bharta party
Tamarind and mint chutney
Papadum to get started
Just bring it on
Fire up the tandoor oven
Cook chicken and garlic nan
Bring the yellow dal tarka
And some channa masala, aah

Vindaloo-ee loo-eee, vindaloo-ee loo-eye
Biryani be good, but what gets me high high high

Aloo samosa
Just one bite and I’m heavenbound
Aloo samosa
Is my favorite snack I have found

Mango lassi, you’re no rerun dog anymore
And what I fancy, culinary big Bangalore

Bowls of mulligatawny
And big plates of basmati
And raitha and pakoras
Will set me right
Some saag and mattar paneer
Palak kofta Kashmiri
Achari boti kebab
And another order of nan

Vindaloo-ee loo-eee, vindaloo-ee loo-eye
Biryani be good, but what gets me high high high

Aloo samosa
Just one bite and I’m heavenbound
Aloo samosa
Is my favorite snack I have found

Vindaloo-ee loo-eee, vindaloo-ee loo-eye
Biryani be good, but what gets me high high high

Aloo samosa
Just one bite and I’m heavenbound
Aloo samosa
Is my favorite snack I have found
Aloo samosa
Aloo samosa
Aloo samosa

I’m going to record the songs and post them on this blog in the next few days. It’s been a lot of fun, and a pretty sweet little exploration of the creative process. Of course, I hope you like —Jackson Griffith

My quirky car jones continues unabated

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 26/02/2010

Yes, I love weird Euro cars, and Asian ones, too, mostly from the postwar period through the late 1960s or early 1970s, when bulbous Robert Crumb roundedness or insectile design cues were abandoned for squared-off boxlike shapes. At the time, such modernity may have been desirable, but in retrospect, I mean, who lusts after a Volvo 140 series sedan these days, when the Amazon, or 120 series in the U.S., is so much more gosh-darn swell?

Okay, so now for the coolest car ad, ever. This is from Czech carmaker Tatra, circa 1962, to tout its 603 model, a rear-engined, bathtub-bodied behemoth with weird headlights and a split rear window. Or, in short form: My kind of car. Dig part one, followed by part two:



What’s not to like here? There’s a snappy Eastern European big band jazz soundtrack, gorgeous cinematography — dunno if you read credits in Hollywood films after the 1960s, but there an awful lot of Czech names in the credits for technical jobs like camera work and lighting — plus beautiful Czech countryside, a trio consisting of two dapper dudes and an Audrey Hepburn lookalike, suspicious commie cops straight out of post-Joe McCarthy central casting, action, and a car that’s nothing short of phenomenal.

Not sure what audience this was produced for; I don’t know how many party leaders could afford what looks like a real sports sedan in early-1960s Czechoslovakia. To the average prole behind the Iron Curtain back then, it was a luxury that only existed in dreams. Perhaps the advert merely served as a showcase for Czech filmmaking. Who knows? At any rate, it captures a pretty sweet machine, yes?

I’m still the sort of chap who will stop the car and get out (or these days, get off the bicycle) to give a look-over to an oddball European or Japanese car. Once I stood in East Sacramento for what seemed like hours thrilling over a mint-condition Panhard Dyna Z Tigre saloon, and I’ve been known to do the same over random vintage Citroëns, ALFA Romeos, SAABs, Peugeots, Borgwards, DKWs (especially the Wankel-powered models), early BMWs (including the wonderfully wacky Isetta), Renaults, Rovers, Wollseleys, Triumph saloons, Toyopets, even more pedestrian marques like Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes and Volvos. During a drunken junket to Moscow in 1988, I stumbled down that city’s backstreets looking for oddball Soviet iron, and I found some choice examples, too. But there’s nothing like the Tatra 603, unless you’re talking about a few other Tatra models. You sure don’t see these babies on the street in the U.S.A.

Hope you dug the movie. I sure do. —Jackson Griffith

Bring back weird Swedish cars

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 25/02/2010


Now that General Motors has completed the sale of SAAB to low-volume luxury Dutch carmaker Spyker Cars, it’ll be interesting to see what develops. I read the news of the transfer this morning, and the first thing I thought of was, wouldn’t it be really cool if Spyker brought back a modernized version of the SAAB 92, with its aerodynamic teardrop body, along the lines of what Volkswagen did with its New Beetle, BMW did with its acquired Austin-Morris brands’ Mini (but, alas, no front-entry BMW Isetta) and FIAT’s Nuevo 500? Then I clicked on the car blog Jalopnik and found this sweet entry.


The SAAB 92 was idiosyncratic to say the least, powered as it was by a two-stroke two-banger. Later iterations of the teardrop body design were bulked up a bit, first the 93 and then the 96, many of which made it to America. Those cars were powered by a Ford Europe V-4 plant. They’re pretty cool looking, too.

If Volvo, which Ford is in the process of selling to Chinese carmaker Geely, won’t get round to building an updated PV 444/544 (or even an Amazon!), a modernized SAAB 92 will do nicely. And, yeah, I’m a sucker for weird Euro cars, and I tend to really like the updated versions (save the Volkswagen New Beetle, which I think missed the mark a bit. Just my opinion, really; your mileage may differ.

Yes, I’m a sucker for oddball Euro iron. Give me a few billion bucks, and I’ll revive Borgward. —Jackson Griffith

Sing for my supper

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 24/02/2010

Beautiful rainy windy nights in Sacramento. Funny how the nasty weather no longer gets me down. I guess it’s because I’m so hunky-dory these days, what with the millions rolling in from my creative efforts, and the new Bentley I just paid cash for, and the groovy restored Craftsman pad in a pristine garden setting where I can wake up mid-morning next to one of the most beautiful women in the world, sometimes two, after a late night of playing music with my pals while sampling a cornucopia of sweet and savory earthly and garden delights. Funny how living such a good life can put a man in a gosh-darned swell mood.

But a while back, things weren’t so excellent. I was riding around town on a bicycle that was in woeful need of repair, and sleeping on a massage table in an unheated flat two floors above a club, which on discotheque nights often made the floors and walls shake like a jackhammer. Drunks and screaming bouncers on the sidewalk kept me awake almost every night. I suffered from a chronic lack of sleep. I would come to waking consciousness dreaming about comfortable beds, not to mention gorgeous women making love with me in them.

Still, the weirdest thing was, I was content, happy even, and I was grateful I was still sober and breathing, and I was especially grateful for the kindnesses of friends and even strangers who had helped me out.


Probably the hardest part of my life back then was my food intake, or lack of it. When people would tell me they thought I was wasting away to nothing, I would joke with them, telling them I was on a diet. I would refer to it as “involuntary fasting,” alluding to vague religious reasons I wasn’t bulking up like the rest of America. The worst moment was when my ex-wife saw me before she left town, and asked me if I was dying of cancer or something. Well, not that I’m aware of, I told her, but one never knows; without the wonderful access to quality government-subsidized health care enjoyed by, oh, butthurt obstructionist Republican lawmakers and their families, I could be dead and not even know it.

Still, even in my darkest moments, I kept creating. It was the only thing I knew that would sustain my spirit. I would pick up my guitar and write songs, and I would go sing them at open-mic nights, even when performing to the audiences there sometimes was not unlike warbing to an aquarium full of tropical fish.

Now that life is wonderful, I still write songs, and that act still sustains me like no other. Tonight, in memory of the time when my belly was not full, and I had no money to fill it, nor did I have sharp clothes to throw on before leaving my abode to sample the fine restaurant fare this city has to offer, I wrote a song about, well, being so broke I was willing to sing for my supper. It is titled, rather unimaginitively: “I Will Sing for My Supper.”

I’m proud
But not too proud to turn a night out
At your place down
Cupboards been bare for so long
That I will trade supper for songs
And I don’t care, there’s nothing wrong
Or unsound

I say
Desperate times call for desperate measures
And anyway
If I can sing and you can cook
It doesn’t matter how it looks
It’s not like I’m some kind of crook
It’s fair trade

So I will sing for my supper anytime you’d like to have me over
And I will bring my guitar and songs to entertain the best I know how

Someday
I’ll be working again we’ll go out I’ll pay
Yours and my way
And I will take great pleasure there
When I can repay you for sharing
What you had with me and caring
This day

But now
I stand before you pockets turned inside out
I don’t know how
I ended up in this strange place
A veteran of the rat race
Who doesn’t care if he’s lost face
Or spun out

So I will sing for my supper anytime you’d like to have me over
And I will bring my guitar and songs to entertain the best I know how

I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
For you

I’m proud
But not too proud to turn a night out
At your place down
Cupboards been bare for so long
That I will trade supper for songs
And I don’t care, there’s nothing wrong
Or unsound

So I will sing for my supper anytime you’d like to have me over
And I will bring my guitar and songs to entertain the best I know how
Yes I will sing for my supper anytime you’d like to have me over
And I will bring my guitar and songs to entertain the best I know how

I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
For you

I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
Yes I will sing for my supper
For you

I don’t drink, but if I did I’d crack open a bottle of the Napa Valley’s finest and toast my erstwhile period of hardship. Yes, I like to think that starving helped shape my character, and I’m a better person for it — more generous, loving, compassionate, giving. And I hope you enjoyed my song, even though the subject matter is now a distant memory, and it’s somewhat disingenuous for me to sing something like this with my belly so full that I’m going to need my clothing let out by the tailor once again. Sigh.

Hey, let me buy you dinner. Where would you like to go? It’s on me. —Jackson Griffith

Beamed aboard, back on Teegeeack now

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 24/02/2010

Hola, compadres. Sorry about the brief vacation from the blogosphere. I was rambling around the woods communing with some nature spirits and all of a sudden I got hit with a blinding light, and suddenly I was onboard one of those flying pie plate thingees, and my intelligent lobster friends insisted on taking me to Neptune for a parallel universe Bootsy Collins collaboration with Scott Joplin and Richard Strauss, an opera based on an unpublished Philip K. Dick manuscript. It took the better part of the weekend, and yesterday I was still trying to piece everything together, so my Internet presence was minimal.


Actually, what happened was I got bogged down in this writing of 14 songs for February project, and we had a live show at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, so I didn’t have the energy to post anything here. I’ve got a couple of other creative projects going, too. But that’s no excuse, and I should be back on track later today. Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve been working on. The first is a loping R&B-style ballad called “Whatever’s Whatever.” Now, a caveat: As a Buddhist, I don’t advocate using hoodoo products like candles and mojo bags to influence the time-space continuum, but that seemed to be what the chord structure was suggesting, so that’s where it went.

Girl I got the power
I got a brand new mojo hand now
In my pocket
And this is the hour
You gonna finally understand how
We will rock it

I burned a candle
So we can be together
Come to me now
’Cause I got a handle
On whatever’s whatever
Work it out

You got something going
That I want to get a taste of
Got my High John
The energy’s flowing
And I don’t want nothing wasted
Let’s get it on

I burned a candle
So we can be together
Come to me now
’Cause I got a handle
On whatever’s whatever
Work it out

Gonna rub my mojo hand
Gonna bring us together
Girl I want you oh so bad
Whatever’s whatever

Girl I got the feeling
That soon we will get sideways
Oh yes I do
I’m wheeling and dealing
I know it’s gonna be a nice day
Me beside you

I burned a candle
So we can be together
Come to me now
’Cause I got a handle
On whatever’s whatever
Come to me now
Yeah I got a handle
On whatever’s whatever
Come to me now
Girl I got a handle
On whatever’s whatever

The secod song, which I wrote yesterday, is your basic Rundgrenesque plaint for world peace; it’s titled “Love, Kindness and Compassion”:

Somewhere there’s a party
But don’t that feel so far away these days?
We’re going through some hard times
So many people lacking
In love, kindness and compassion

So many folks are hurting
Too many people ain’t working today
But the radio is burning
With voices attacking
Sweet love, kindness and compassion

Where in the world do some people get off?
They act so entitled like they think they are gods
And everyone else in this world can be bought and sold
But time’s running out on that world of the past
And nothing can last
Forever we know, we die then grow cold

We’re in this together
We got a choice on whether we can survive
Get stuck in an endgame
Or we can start attracting
More love, kindness and compassion

Where in this world do some people get off?
They act so entitled like they think they are gods
And everyone else in the world can be bought and sold
But time’s running out on that world of the past
And nothing can last
Forever we know, we die then grow cold

Somewhere there’s a river
We’ll cross over and live in paradise
Where there’s people giving
With love and compassion
Yeah, love, kindness and compassion
Yeah, sweet love, kindness and compassion
What’s so funny ’bout love, kindness and compassion?

Writing songs seems to be pretty easy and flowing, but the process does sap a certain amount of energy, so that’s probably why my presence on this blog has not been an everyday thing recently. Almost done with the project, though, and I will post the MP3s on this blog and then link them to the FAWM page.

Cheerio, as they say on the other thirtywhatever planets. —Jackson Griffith

The business of business is, uh, business

Posted in Uncategorized by Jackson Griffith on 20/02/2010

This morning, we were sitting around eating bowls of Cap’n Crunch and drinking coffee and talking about wacky business ideas, or what’s the wackiest business idea you ever had. Now, it wouldn’t be fair or ethical for me to divulge other people’s business ideas on my blog, so I won’t.

I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head, except that I used to think that if I had a spare billion dollars, I would buy four or nine contiguous blocks in the center city, and I would build a giant replica of one of the “Stalin’s wedding cake” buildings that was twice the height of anything else in town, as a ridiculous monument to my then-massive ego. The beauty, or lack of it, of those Soviet wedding-cake monstrosities is that they managed to combine some of the more frighteningly gothic design aspects of New York’s Woolworth Building and Salt Lake City’s LDS Temple with scary things you can do with concrete and stone. Of course, I’d top it with a huge illuminated red hammer and sickle encircled by a laurel, just to make the local right-wingers apoplectic.

I no longer think like that. Well, occasionally I like to think that a giant, 50-story illuminated hologram of Venus emerging from the half shell in oceanic froth a la Sandro Botticelli might be a nifty little art project to throw at people once in a while, but a permanent eyesore, like an ugly building that dominates the local landscape, is just flat-out unkind. Besides, we already have enough of those, don’t we?


Anyway, once around 30 years ago I had a job working for this guy, and he used to have bull sessions after work with a couple of buddies, one of whom was a Texan named Jim who was chairman of the local Republican Party. This was still at the beginning of the original Reagan-era groundswell of populist uprising, when evangelical churches started organizing to foist their own “pro-life and family values” candidates into central committees and offices, so the local GOP politburos weren’t all run yet by people who held everyone to Bible-based litmus tests; the cigar-loving, single malt-swilling free-market business cowboys still held sway.

I loved shooting the breeze with those guys, because sometimes their ideas were hilariously off the wall. My favorite came one evening when Jim let us in on one of his brainstorms: “Heroes of Business” trading cards. “You know, for the kids,” he’d enthuse. Figuring that children might get off on trading, oh, a Ken Lay and a Charles and David Koch for a Lloyd Blankfein, a Maurice Greenberg and a bankster to be named later, Jim thought that business executives should be accorded similar status to baseball players in the imaginations of young lads, and it might make business cool again.

And for geeks, the stats on the back of the cards might be pretty interesting. What metrics would you use? Annual salary, net worth, gross profit of company are obvious, but what more arcane statistics could you put?

Business indeed got cool there for a time, as salaries for sports stars and the big swinging sausages of industry rose into the stratosphere, and business executives became celebrities in their own right, and guys like Tyco International’s Dennis Kozlowski began throwing Caligula-worthy parties to celebrate their personal awesomeness. Although today, if you’re going to throw a fete that rocks a Roman Empire vibe, it’s probably best to do it a bit under the radar, so to speak, because the aesthetics of The New Austerity might clash with that. Oh, what am I saying? The überrich don’t give a damn what you or I think; they’re going to fly 747-loads of revelers to Morocco to unhinge like bloodthirsty Huns if that’s what they feel like doing.

And even with the misadventures of the banksters and postmillenial robber barons and their fellow travelers, I still think business is cool, albeit for different reasons. No, not for giant corporations that swallow other corporations and ravage lives and trash economies, or that finance politicians that tilt the playing field to their advantage. But businesses, small businesses that arise from the ground level, in garages or small shops or in coworking spaces, can be tremendous fountains of creativity, and out of that creativity can come a lot of pretty cool stuff.

Hmm. Maybe time for a “Heroes of Entreprenurial Business” card edition for the iPad? —Jackson Griffith