Category Archives: Music

Banksy Plays the Violin


Earlier this year, I read an article about Joshua Bell, a violinist who played at a Washington D.C. subway station during the morning rush hour. Unlike most buskers, this musician was one of the most accomplished virtuosos in the world. Three nights before, Joshua Bell played in Boston’s Symphony Hall for patrons who paid over $100 a ticket. And the instrument he played? A violin from 1713, handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari, that cost Bell $3.5 million.

You would expect that one of the best musicians on the planet to garner some attention. But during his 43 minutes of playing time, only seven people stopped to listen, and he earned a total of $32.17.

This experiment, the brainchild of The Washington Post, raises all sorts of questions, including: Can we appreciate beauty in unfamiliar settings? Are we able to recognize talent without signposts? And how do we know when we are in the presence of true art? Banksy must have considered these questions last weekend, when he set up a vendor stall in New York’s Central Park.

You may be wondering, “Who is Banksy?” But like Joshua Bell in symphonic circles, Banksy, in the art world, is a household name.  We don’t know his real name, but Banksy is an English artist, who has literally taken contemporary art to the streets. Yes, he’s a graffiti artist, whose primary tools are spray-paint and unsuspecting walls. Banksy is known for painting socially conscious and politically poignant images, mostly with dark and satirical undertones. And while his art can be viewed for free in various locations around the world, his original stenciled prints have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So when Banksy set up a stall in Central Park to sell 25 pieces of original art for only $60 a piece, you would expect that at least one or two people would have gobbled up his signed works, particularly in such an art conscious city. Instead, he sold only eight pieces for a total of $240 (one woman bought two works, but she haggled the vendor down to half price).

Like Joshua Bell’s musicianship, people either did not appreciate Banksy’s art, or it was passed off as fake. Either way, these experiments force us to consider some unsettling ideas: that our opinions are not our own, that circumstances may be more important than talent, and that everyday things we take for granted, may be more beautiful and valuable than we ever considered.

P.S. When you stand on the Northeast corner of Columbus and Broadway in San Francisco, look toward the Transamerica Pyramid, and you will see this original Banksy:

Banksy photo

My First Art Competition


Each year, KFOG, a San Francisco radio station, records and publishes on-air live performances of artists who visit their studio, in a CD entitled Live From The Archives. KFOG also holds a contest for Bay Area residents to submit cover art for each volume of Live From The Archives.

My colleague told me about this year’s contest on Monday, and today was the deadline for submission. So I only had a couple of evenings to complete the artwork, and to get it into a CD cover format. I had lots of ideas, but since I can’t draw well without a reference (i.e., I suck at drawing straight from my head), and I didn’t have time to take a bunch of new photos, I used a picture of our eldest son on his second birthday as a source. I thought it was an appropriate image for the contest, and one that would be different from the other entries, as I didn’t include the Golden Gate Bridge or a Cable Car. After two late nights, including one where my buddy, David Cervenka, introduced me to the Pandora’s box that is Photoshop, I submitted the above cover art.

This evening, KFOG unveiled the top ten finalists, but they did not include my entry. I would like to have made the cut, but I’m glad to know that whichever cover art wins,  all of the proceeds from the sale of the CD  will benefit Bay Area food banks.

So if you are in the Bay Area this November, visit a Peet’s Coffee & Tea, purchase a CD, support the local food banks, and enjoy some live music from KFOG’s archives.

P.S. A special thanks to David Cervenka, without whose help, I could not have created such a polished looking CD cover (nor would I have submitted it on time). David and his wife, Alicia, are wicked photographers, so check out their websites at and And also thanks to Mark Madison for his input, and for poisoning my mind with why fonts matter.

“Step to the rhythm step, step to the ride…”


A few events in the last month, including the first anniversary of MCA’s passing, the naming of Adam Yauch Park in Brooklyn, and my brother’s “close, but not quite” encounter with Mike D, prompted me to load a few Beastie Boys albums onto my iPod.  I forgot how much I enjoy their music, so I thought I would draw a couple of sketches, and share a few of their lyrics.


Itchy trigger finger but a stable turntable
I do what I do best because I’m illing and able
– from, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

Step to the rhythm step, step to the ride
I’ve got an open mind so why don’t you all get inside
– from, “Hey Ladies”

Sendin’ out love to all corners of the land
I jump up on the stage and take the mic in my hand
I’m not playin’ the roll, just being who I am
And if you try to dis me, I couldn’t give a damn
– from, “Jimmy James”

The name is D, y’all and I don’t play
And I can rock a block party ’til your hair turns grey
So, what you sayin’? I explode on site
I’m like Jimmy Walker I’m Dynomite
– from, “Pass the Mic”

I’ve got depth of perception in my text, y’all
I get props at my mention cause I vex, y’all
– from, “So What’cha Want”

I want to say a little something that’s long overdue
The disrespect to women has got to be through
To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end
– from, “Sure Shot”

Well, it’s…
Fifty cups of coffee and you know it’s on
I move the crowd to the break of break of dawn
– from, “Super Disco Breakin’”

Now, let me get some action from the back section
We need body rockin’, not perfection
– from, “Body Movin’”

If you try to knock, me you’ll get mocked
I’ll stir fry you in my wok
Your knees’ll start shaking and your fingers pop
Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock
– from, “Intergalactic”

Play or fold, love is bold
What is the future that will unfold?
Some like it hot, others like it cold
But we all want to hold the remote control
– from, “Remote Control”