Is this art?

I call it, “Nuts and Bolts” and I ask the simple question, “Is this art?”

After our recent vacation to London and visit to the Tate Museum which specializes in modern art, I would have to say, “yes, it is most definitely art.”

Whether it’s good art is a whole different question.

The first painting I ever sold at the first gallery show I ever had was called, “Sealed for your protection”.

It wasn’t a large painting (and neither is this one). I had a small canvas sitting around and couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I had been doing large acrylic and airbrush paintings and whenever I would open a new air brush color, I’d have to remove the seal at the top of the bottle (similar to an aspirin bottle). Each seal read, “Sealed for your protection”.

I grabbed the small canvas, filled my palette with every color I had and attacked the canvas with a palette knife, smothering the canvas in color. Then, before the globs of paint could dry, I stuck all those ‘seals’ into the paint and they literally became sealed into the painting.

After visiting the Tate, I was struck by the absurdity of some modern art.

There was one entirely white canvas that had been attached on top of another canvas and the artist had slit the top canvas open, to reveal a black canvas below. Brilliant!

There was another painting of squares within squares and the color composition and texture achieved were … brilliant!

Then there was the large, black canvas. It was large and it was black. Brilliant!

So that got me back into my experimental mode again. The painting I did right before this one is called, “The Paintings Within”.

It is a totally based off several different paintings by my painting hero, Rene Magritte. I am an absolute hack compared to Magritte but I love how he creates mystery with his paintings and makes you wonder why it was painted in the first place.

I spent hours and hours on this and could spend more hours still trying to fine tune it. But eventually, you have to say “Stop!” when you are painting as you begin to reach a point of diminishing returns.

I spent three nights painting the nuts and bolts and now know that I could have done it even quicker had I bought the kind of spray paint you use on outdoor furniture.

But tonight, I touched up the nuts and bolts and attacked the canvas with cobalt blue and then randomly stuck the nuts and bolts into their final resting place.

It was fun.

But is this art?

Is advanced hype taking the air out of Super Bowl commercials?

A recent poll said that 89% of people don’t like seeing Super Bowl commercials in advance.

I have no idea of the validity of this poll but I do agree with it. There’s something special about seeing a commercial for the first time on the Super Bowl. You look forward to each commercial break and if you’ve already seen the commercial before, there’s a little bit of a letdown. It’s even worse than throwing an under-inflated football.

Advertisers are trying to get a grip with the whole pre-release notion. Some are smart – and only dole out online teasers.

I’m already looking forward to seeing what Snickers is going to do in this year’s game. They have an online teaser telling us about a very special episode of “The Brady Bunch” – and no, it doesn’t appear to be about Tom Brady and his under-inflated balls, but rather, some very weird spin-off of the old Brady Bunch TV show. My appetite has been whetted.

Anheuser-Busch tries to play both sides of the, “give them something to see, but don’t give them your best shot”. They have a “Lost Puppy Dog” commercial that’s supposed to be this year’s tear-jerker – I assume the Clydesdales somehow help save the day but we won’t know how until next Sunday evening.

They’ve already released a 60-second spot that will be airing on the big game ( involving their on-going up for whatever happens next campaign. In this one, a guy gets to be a live contestant in a giant Pac Man game. The whole thing seemed kind of stupid to me but it was very watchable.

Carl’s Jr (Hardee’s in our area) is out with another sex-driven, loaded with innuendo spot featuring Charlotte McKinney who seemingly appears ‘all natural’ throughout the commercial, and in the end, takes a bite out of an ‘all natural’ burger. It will be hated by women everywhere and probably loved by the 18-34 male target audience that they are trying to reach. Since I’m no longer in that target age, I refuse to comment (though I did watch the commercial three times to make sure I got all my facts correct).

Dove has already released their Super Bowl commercial ( It’s a tribute to dads and yes, I liked it quite a bit – though I don’t think I’ll be buying their line of skin care products any time soon.

We’ll be seeing a number of movie trailers, too. Star Wars will be there. And a new trailer for Jurassic World, directed by Steven Speilberg looks like it will be a fun one to watch.

There will be plenty of duds – plenty of commercials trying to be outrageous with virtually no product tie-in whatsoever. They will all quickly fade into oblivion, $4.5 million dollars for 30 seconds washed right down the toilet, bathroom breaks or not.

Victoria’s Secret has their super models playing football. Sorry, I’d rather see them parade around in their angel costumes then suit up and simulate toughness on the gridiron.

Car commercials always have a tough time making a real impact. Toyota featues paralympian, Amy Purdy, skiing, dancing and doing remarkable feats with her bladerunner feet and somehow, that’s linked to buying a Toyota. I liked the spot enough to write about it but I won’t be in any Toyota showrooms any time soon.

But that’s enough of a tease.

If I revealed everything I’ve seen, it would just be deflating when you see it next Sunday night.

I’m sure that every football will be fully pumped for this game.

Hopefully, you will be, too, whenever the commercials come on to give us a break.


Life on the other side of the pond

I’d never been on a vacation to London before. In fact, the last time I was in Europe was back when I was a freshman in college. So spending Christmas and New Year’s on a family vacation in England was a major change of pace.

We left the morning after my dad had passed away. This was a vacation we had been planning ever since we got news that Tom Jr. had been accepted to spend his junior year of college at Oxford University. My dad had told us the week before we passed that we should go – so go we did, arriving in London jet-lagged, but ready to see the sights and sounds of London with a day trip to Oxford tossed in for good measure.

The day started out slowly as we waited for Tom Jr. to arrive via bus/subway to our hotel, which turned out to be centrally located near the Earl’s Court subway station. Once we got checked into our rooms and we all took a bit of a nap, it was a whirlwind of activity from then on, each day different than the previous one.

We saw Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, then made our way over to the London Eye – a giant ferris wheel that overlooks the River Thames. We walked and walked. And visited a pub or two in the process.

On Day Two, we visited Oxford University – which is actually a blend of 31 different colleges and universities, all under the Oxford name. Talk about history. Oxford was founded in 1231. That in itself is crazy. But even though many of the buildings are centuries old, the place was alive and vibrant and such a far cry from any college campus I’ve ever visited. It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to actually go there. But Tom is doing it – and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

It’s definitely different on the other side of the Atlantic. London is a true, international city. It’s historic. It’s a mix of the old and the new and there is construction going on everywhere. It’s 12.5 million people going about their daily lives, following their futbol team with a passion. To get into some pubs on game day, you actually have to prove you are a season ticket holder. Opposing fans are not allowed and for good reason – tempers can flare over futbol.

Overall though, London seemed like a very accepting city. No matter who you are, what you look like or what you do, it didn’t seem like anyone really seemed out of place. People were very friendly – except on the subway where it seems most people pretty much stick to their own thing.

With the holiday crowds, we had a few subway rides where we were literally packed in like sardines. But traffic flowed and it seemed like you never waited more than a few minutes for the next subway to roll in.

“Mind the gap,” the subway recorded announcement would say every time you exited. It was so dang British and somehow, it had a certain element of cool that, “Watch your step,” could never have.

We went to Midnight Mass in a small church in North London. We watched fireworks along the Thames River on New Year’s Eve. We went to an Arsenal-Queens Park Rangers futbol game and saw the musical comedy, “Book of Mormon” at a very cool theatre in the Piccadilly Square area. We went to the National Portrait Museum, did a walking tour of Charles Dickens old stomping grounds, toured Westminster Abbey, saw the outside of Buckingham Palace and spent a few hours inside the Tate Museum where I got a few new inspirations for some upcoming paintings.

Of course, I had to have a few Clark Griswold moments to give the entire family something they can talk about years from now and I didn’t disappoint.

I wiped out ice skating, flying into the boards as I was trying to be way too cool doing something I hadn’t done in about 15 years. Initially, I thought my knee was damaged but apparently, it only bruised, much like the hit I took to my ego. On another outing after a few too many pints, I decided to take a quick pub pit stop while on a walking tour of Jack the Ripper’s haunting grounds and by the time I emerged, the tour had rounded two corners and disappeared – fortunately, Chris stuck by my side, choosing to miss the rest of the tour with me, rather than leave me stranded and without a clue how to find my way to the tour’s ending point.

In the end, it all worked out fine. Memories were made. Good times were had. And like any vacation, it was good to get home.

We had the visitation for my dad the day after we got back and the funeral was held the next day. Then it was back to work and back to reality.

Now London is nothing more than a bunch of memories, almost all of them good.

With two of our three children now in college, this may have been one of the last family vacations we’ll have. Time will tell on that one.

But for now, all I can say is, “Jolly good, London. Jolly good.”


Ending up on the front page of the paper

When I was at my previous job, I used to lead the creative team responsible for creating communications on the U.S. Army’s Sexual/Harassment Assault Response & Prevention Program (also known as SHARP).

That seems like another lifetime ago.

So imagine my surprise when I pulled the plastic wrapper off of this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, opened the front page and the lead photograph was of two different posters we created about four years ago.

I’m sure J.B. Forbes, (who took the photo) was thrilled when he saw the message on the left, which reads, “Commit a sexual assault and you can flush your whole career right down the toilet.”

How appropriate for a story about Staff Sgt. Angel Sanchez who was found guilty “on a long list of egregious claims against him, such as forcing sexual favors from young trainees.”

But the story dug a little deeper than that as it, “explored lapses in reporting and protocol at all levels that allowed Sanchez to prey on female trainees despite anti-sex abuse program.”

I’m not sure if this story was exploiting one case and using it to imply that the Army’s entire approach to sexual harassment and assault is not working.

The article did go on to say that, “the Sanchez case had triggered a widespread review of SHARP personnel and systems at Ft. Leonard Wood. And at a national level, the Army has taken steps to ensure leaders are aware of the lessons learned from the incident a Pentagon spokesman said.”

Some people say that any publicity is good publicity. Probably not so, in this case.

According to the article, there were warning signs about Sgt. Sanchez that those in positions of authority should have acted upon and that, “two former E Company trainees said from the stand that the two highest-ranking members of the 701st Military Police Battalion told trainees that if they made any more SHARP complaints, the whole company would have to start basic training all over.”

I know when I worked on the SHARP account, it was serious business. The Army knew they had to change their culture in order to make significant attitude adjustments regarding sexual harassment and assault in the military – and it had to start at the top.

We created a 30-minute training video that was one of the more powerful pieces of communication that I have ever worked on in my career. We created posters to hang in barracks and offices, created training guides for drill sergeants with real-life what-ifs and what-to-do in the event this happens on your watch. They reinforced the whole concept of battle buddy and stressed the importance of watching out for each other – on and off the battlefield.

Still, you can create all the anti-drunk driving messaging you want. And people will still drive drunk. You can create powerful anti-smoking campaigns and put labels on cigarette packs saying if you smoke these you’ll die sooner. And people will still smoke.

When you look at the hierarchy of communication, you have awareness/understanding/conviction/action.

The training materials, posters, flyers and videos we created all did a fairly good job of creating awareness and to a degree, understanding of the consequences and of the simple need to watch out for your fellow Soldier.

It’s the conviction and action part that apparently still needs fixing.

I know one thing is true. Sgt. Sanchez committed a sexual assault and he did indeed flush his whole career right down the toilet.

Truth in advertising.


4th and long and St. Louis will probably punt

The two-man team of David Peacock and Robert Blitz, appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, unveiled the new St. Louis NFL stadium proposal yesterday in an effort to keep the Rams or potentially lure some other NFL team to the banks of the Mississippi.

Good luck with that.

Silent Stan has already technically checked out and wants to take the Rams back to LA. First he bought 60 acres of land in Inglewood, California, big enough to hold a stadium and the accompanying parking lots that would be needed as the Rams would seek to re-build their LA presence.

On Monday, plans were unveiled for the City of Champions Revitalization Project backed by The Kroenke Group and the real estate investment management firm, Stockbridge Capital Group. In addition to the new stadium, the project includes a 300-room hotel, a 6,000-seat performance venue and a proposed 1.5 million square feet of retail and office development.

Their renderings of the new site looked way better than our renderings.

And for now, that’s all both of these proposals are – renderings.

Still, it seems there is a lot more substance behind Silent Stan’s plans. After all, he is the team owner who has shown no allegiance whatsoever to St. Louis and now wants to go to greener pastures where he can make even more money.

Enos Stanley Kroenke (his full name), was named after two Hall of Fame Cardinals players (Enos “Country” Slaughter and Stan Musial). He probably grew up hating being called Enos (rhymes with ___). Even though he went to Mizzou and maintains a home on 84 acres of land in Columbia, Missouri, it’s just one of his seven different abodes.

Many people don’t know that Enos is the 8th largest private landowner in the U.S., including a modest 124,00-acre ranch in Augusta, Montana; a Pacific Coast Highway beach house in Malibu where Dodi Fayed, Princess Diana’s companion once lived, along with numerous residences in the state of Colorado where Enos owns the Colorado Avalanche, the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Rapids soccer team.

Enos wasn’t present at the Peacock press conference and why would he be?

David said that the newly proposed riverfront stadium was far from being too little, too late.

The proposed 64,000-seat stadium with an additional 7,500 luxury boxes tacked on would cost somewhere between $860-$985 million. The Rams and the NFL would cover half the cost, the remaining funds would come through tax credits and other public financing along with seat licensing fees. According to Mr. Peacock, no new taxes or bonds would be needed to pay for this new open air stadium.

Still, the money will have to come from somewhere and those in the St. Louis region are probably quite dubious of the funding. Many will come out and say that we should take all the money that would be spent to try and keep an NFL team and instead spend it on our schools or re-building something – anything – just no more money tossed at keeping an NFL franchise.

I am on the fence on this one.

We’ve been Rams season ticket holders since the second year they arrived. We paid for our PSL and I’d love to hear if we’d get any kind of a deal in transferring it over to the new stadium.

On the bigger picture, I believe St. Louis needs an NFL team. I believe we need to continue to re-vitalize our downtown and the prospect of having a stadium that could be home to the Rams as well as an MLS franchise, built in an area that is currently doing absolutely nothing for the economic future of St. Louis is enticing.

But I am just one person.

St. Louis has long had a NIMBY attitude – Not In My Back Yard. By and large, this is not a very forward-thinking community. We are resistant to change. We are way too content with the status quo. And all the little kingdoms that make up the St. Louis region have made it very difficult to move forward as a community. There is a huge disparity between the haves and have-nots. Corporations are not moving into this area. They are moving out.

St. Louis is a city on the brink. Over the past year, our national reputation has taken a beating and the media have added fuel to that fire.

Enos knows all of this.

He knows that when it comes time to buck up, St. Louis will probably punt.




Saying goodbye to my Dad

“Hi, pal.”

Those were the words my Dad would greet me with for as long as I can remember.

Every weekday when I was a kid, I’d be in our living room chair, waiting for him to come home from his job at Union Electric. He’d walk through the door, hand me the afternoon copy of the Post-Dispatch and greet me with “Hi, pal.”

That simple, two-word greeting continued through my teen years, on into my 20s, my 30s, 40s and 50s.

Frank X. Blood died on December 20, 2014. He was 88 with an 89th birthday coming up in February.

It was a peaceful death, surrounded by family.

Dad had gone into the hospital the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. He had come down with a bad case of the flu. The flu turned into pneumonia. The pneumonia led to some other health issues and in the end, his body was just too tired.

The day of his death, we kind of all new it was no longer a matter of if he might die, but sadly, when. It was my sister’s birthday. It was the day before my family was set to depart on a long-planned trip to London to visit Tom Jr., who is spending his junior year in college at Oxford University.

When we left for London early the next morning, it was with a heavy heart, knowing that upon our return, there would be no more sharing my adventures with my Dad. No more, “Hi, pal” greetings awaiting me.

It’s hard when you lose a parent. It’s really hard when you lose them both and you realize you’re now flying solo on your journey of life.

Yesterday, we had a 5-hour stream of people that dropped by the funeral home to pay their respects to my Dad. Today, was his funeral. My brother, the Reverend Monsignor Francis X. Blood led the Mass, accompanied by 26 other priests. Frank gave a strong homily. I gave the eulogy. Combined, the two perspectives shed some real insight on the life my Dad lived.

It was a tough two days to go through. At the same time, it was the coming together of family and friends to celebrate, recognize and remember what a great man my Dad was.

I have so many memories of my Dad. He taught me so much. Encouraged me. Backed me. Praised and raised me. He taught me the importance of always trying your hardest and giving your best.

The day that he died, as his breaths became shorter and we saw that life was slipping away, I came to the realization that I would never hear him say, “Hi, pal” again.

I grabbed his hand, squeezing it, hoping that he would squeeze back.

He was just too tired.

So I shut my eyes and took myself back – to my childhood, to my teen years, to every year – letting the memories wash over me and strengthening me in my resolve to carry on and try and live my life like he lived his.

“Hi, pal.”

Forever and always.