Tag Archives: giraffes

Amanda Palmer on the Art of Giving Giraffe Drawings

Amanda Palmer Drawing An Awful Giraffe

Amanda Palmer Demonstrating the Art of Giving, September 2012.

Amanda Palmer (Web|Twitter) is a musician and writer. She is one-half of the “Brechtian punk cabaret” group The Dresden Dolls and the frontwoman of Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra. Recently she published a book titled The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help (2014) based on her popular TED Talk on the same subject. Even if some of her ideas are tone deaf there’s no denying she’s an immensely talented artist (her album Theater is Evil is brilliant and rarely leaves my CD player).

Palmer passed through Houston the other night (two years ago), which was my first introduction to both her and her work. Drunk and amazed, the only trouble I had was trying to make small-talk with the fans who only wanted to talk about Neil Gaiman. Still, everyone was a friendly bunch — and when I asked Palmer to draw a giraffe she did so with only modest hesitation (the guitarist — whose name I’m excluding here on principle — thought I was a joke).

Please note that I take this project very seriously. And how could I not? Look at this:

Amanda Palmer Giraffe DrawingThis is the gold-standard of Brechtian Punk Cabaret giraffes (?).

Van Jones Pretty Awful Giraffe

Environmental Activist and New York Times Best-selling author Van Jones

Mr. Van jones

Van Jones is a Communist Czar, civil rights activist, and and advocate for what he calls The Green Collar Economy, which reached #12 on the New York Times Best Seller List. He is the co-founder and President of the think tank Rebuild the Dream, which is dedicated to “fighting for an economy that works for everyone – and in which everyone can work.”

Now, while I usually try to supplement each of these posts with a wild and zany story about how said giraffe I was obtained – I have no recollection of this story. This morning I just happened to come across it while cleaning out my unread inbox from *cough* two years ago. So, what I’ve decided to do instead is contact Mr. Jones for a public comment or see if he has any memory of this.

When it comes, I will post his response here. Until then, enjoy this picture of a tree … and a thing.

US Congressman Keith Ellison's Pretty Awful Giraffe

US Congressman Keith Ellison

US Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-D)

 Keith Ellison (twitter) is a U.S. congressman whose district centers on Minneapolis, MN, and happens to be the first liberal politician I have ever seen in person (way back in the 2008 summer of my youth). He is the first Muslim elected to Congress, a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus and thus a national voice on progressive issues. I try my best to keep my politics out of this blog, but I’ll admit that he’s a personal hero of mine. (I’ll also refrain from commenting on whether or not he is a better artist than Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan).

(But let’s be serious – it’s not partisanship to say that Ellison’s giraffe is clearly better. It’s artistic elitism.)

There is not much of a story behind this piece. In February 2011 I was speaking at a University of Minnesota rally at the state capitol (at which Ellison was also making an appearance) and approached the congressman shortly after he left the stage. While everyone else was approaching him to shake his hand, take a picture, and so on, I pulled him aside behind the stage and made The Ask.

And without missing a beat, asking “why?” or offering any resistance at all, he took the notebook I put in front him and began to draw. As you can tell, this was not something he just dismissed; he took it seriously and tried to make something he could be proud of.

Well, as proud as one can really be of this.

US Congressman Paul Ryans Awful Giraffe 4 11

US Congressman Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)

As much as it pains me to admit I did not get this giraffe myself. I wish I would have been there so that I could have had the opportunity to point out that whether one calls themselves a Democrat or Republican, they still suck at drawing. Frankly, it may be the one thing that can unite us as a country.

US Congressman Paul Ryan (WI-R)

Or something like that.

Anyway, the following has been relayed to me by a friend of mine named Joe Hartmann (Facebook) who, coincidentally, ran into the congressman in a DC airport. For those who may not be familiar with U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan, he is the chairman of the House Budget Committee who has been in the news lately because of his proposed federal budget and its ensuing controversy. I’ll try to keep my opinions to myself.

Packed up and at the airport ready to return to the state after spending a weekend in the capitol city for an environmental conference, I can only presume Joe was not aware that he was on the cusp of history. Note even knowing the name of the congressman until the deed was done, turning to another bystander and asking “Who was that?” I can only presume that Joe had any clue that he would be interacting with one of the most powerful men in Washington.

As Joe is waiting for his plane to arrive a great commotion breaks out in the distance. Suddenly lights begins to flash and the chattering of the crowd fills the terminal – Joe doesn’t recognize the person but surely someone must. As Ryan signs autographs and takes pictures with fans, the only clear fact is that he’s a celebrity. So what is one to do?

Approaching the congressman, my friend is blunt: “Can you draw me a giraffe?”

Ryan is equally so: “No.”

Though Ryan continues to excite the crowd, Joe continues, “My friend has a blog where he collects giraffes drawn by people who should not be drawing giraffes. It’s gaining some steam and he already has some drawings from other politicians ….” Even though I can only extrapolate and piece together the exchange through my conversations with Joe, the fact that it worked implies that it must have been divinely inspired. There really is no other rational explanation for it.

Pulling out a piece of paper,  Ryan practices his art. Unsatisfied with his first attempt he tears the sheet out of the notebook, crumples it up and puts it into his back pocket. Trying again he creates what can only be described as a masterpiece that may or may not be better than Congressman Tim Walz’s giraffe.

A Pretty Awful Paul Ryan Giraffe

Though I’m not sure why it has black, soulless eyes ….

Writer and Director Matthew Chapmans Awful Giraffe April 2011

Writer and Director Matthew Chapman

Matthew Chapman (personal website) is a journalist, screenwriter and director who is also the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. More importantly, and this is something that was stressed, he’s a damn good journalist, screenwriter and director. He is the author of two nonfiction books, Trials of the Monkey – an Accidental Memoir (2002) and 40 Days and 40 Nights: Darwin, Intelligent Design, God, OxyContin, and Other Oddities on Trial in Pennsylvania (2007), the latter of which arose from his work with Harper’s magazine reporting on the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area  School Districtcase.

Matthew Chapman

For those who may not be familiar with Kitzmiller (or as some call it the “Dover Panda Trial”), it was effectively a continuation of the Scopes Monkey Trial and

was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that changed its biology teaching curriculum to require that intelligent design was to be presented as an alternative to evolution theory, with Of Pandas and People to be used as a reference book.[1] The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The judge’s decision sparked considerable response from both supporters and critics. [From Wikipedia]

I had the pleasure of meeting Chapman at the American Atheists Convention in Des Moines where he spoke briefly about and then premiered his 2011 Sundance-selected film The Ledge. Following the Q-and-A where every atheist in the room suddenly assumed themselves to be Roger Ebert, embarrassing not only themselves but everyone in the room, a few friends and I approached him to discuss the possibility of screening his film on our campus. Being open to the idea, he then asked us if we had any ideas on how he could distribute his film to college campuses – and we did – but as the conversation began to trail, I made the pitch:

In the most adorable English accent imaginable, Chapman replied: “You want me to draw a giraffe?”

“Well, yes.”

“I don’t even think I can recall what a giraffe looks like.”

“Long neck.”

This line tends to resolves all qualms.

“OK.”

And thus was born what is now is one of my new personal favorite drawings and proof that art skills are not an inheritable trait (have you seen Darwin’s sketches?).

What the fu- is that a penis?!

Brian Melendez 1 11

Fmr. DFL Chairman Brian Melendez

Being out of town for the last several days I have not had the opportunity to write the articles I’ve been meaning to, but I assure you that the Gary Snyder and maybe even the Lawrence Krauss story will go up this week. Until then, enjoy the very first giraffe ever drawn from February ’11.

Brian Melendez is the former Chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (2005-2011), lawyer, contributer to Black’s Law Dictionary and most impressively: the guy with one of the highest ranked reviews of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (9th Edition) on Amazon.com. A graduate of Harvard, Melendez is perhaps one of the smartest guys you could ever hope to meet.

Also, he draws really terrible giraffes as I discovered when I approached him at a DFL event celebrating his years of service. Now that I have called in my one favor for the years of volunteer work, I am not sure how to feel. After all, all I got was the following and weird look – was it worth it?

Oh yeah.

Minnesota Orchestra Trumpeter Manny Laureano's Pretty Awful Giraffe

Minnesota Orchestra Trumpeter Manny Laureano (No Osmo Vänskä)

Today’s post comes from another friend of mine, Sean Jacobson, who is a student at St. John’s University. Having known him for several years now, I can say that he is serious when he writes that “there is very little in this world that I enjoy more than classical music.” In fact, I would even add that such enjoyment rests on a fine precipice that, with one stumble, could send him careening into obsession and thus a life spent locked away with as many cats as there would likely be pianos. But I’ve digressed.

Sean had the great fortune of seeing the Minnesota Orchestra perform at his campus a few weeks ago and (as you will learn) thought it would be a good idea to solicit a drawing from famed conductor and notorious sourpuss OsmoVänskä. Unfortunately that cold April evening only saw Mr. Vänskä carve his name into the Wall of Shame as the orchestra’s Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano made history [Clarification Needed].

Without further introduction, I now present to you what will likely be the best-written post you find on this website for a while:

A (Somewhat Artfully Embellished) Tale of Classical Giraffes

As those who know me will tell you, there is very little in this world that I enjoy more than classical music. One of those things, though, one of those rare interests that can contend with Mahler, Beethoven, or Shostakovich for my love and adoration is the noble giraffe. As a child, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would proudly answer “a giraffe!” no doubt hoping to capitalize on my then-disproportionately long neck. Naturally, then, a giraffe drawn by a professional classical musician…well that would just be the bee’s knees.

Manny Laureano

Such were the thoughts going through my head recently when the Minnesota Orchestra performed on campus. As I sat entranced watching the concert from the second balcony the thought, nay, the revelation, nay, the divine mission struck me: I had to get a giraffe drawn by the conductor, Osmo Vänskä. As the first half of the concert closed with a brilliant tuba feature, I set off to seek out the maestro. As I wound my way around the back of the hall and into the rear lobby I noticed a group of musicians huddled in a circle intent upon something in the middle. My mission temporarily on hold due to curiosity, I decided to examine the situation more closely.

It was then that I noticed that one of the three musicians was none other than Manny Laureano, principal trumpet of the orchestra. Let me put this in perspective for a moment: I’m a music major. The Minnesota Orchestra is one of the world’s best ensembles and one which I have idolized since I first saw them live in ninth grade. I play trumpet. Manny is an artist of the highest caliber. Put it all together and you have me hyperventilating like a pre-teen girl meeting a varsity quarterback. I cautiously approached Manny and the other two no-doubt virtuosic players (who, I am embarrassed to admit, I have completely forgotten the names of). One of them was playing a game of chess against Manny who promptly put her in check. I couldn’t help but think that either he was a pretty awful chess player or was making an extremely bold gambit. Certainly, he had put his opponent in check, but in doing so he left his queen wide open to attack. As I meekly intruded, introducing myself as a trumpeter and giving the pitch asking for a giraffe from any of the three, I watched Manny’s gamble pay off as his opponent, no doubt focusing on her king, missed the opportunity and blocked attack rather than going on the offensive. Manny made his next move and proceeded to begin drawing a giraffe while the other bystander and I made small-talk about giraffe fight videos on YouTube. I was impressed by Mr. Laureano’s ability to multi-task as he sketched the giraffe while still continuing to dominate the chess board.

Clearly impressed as well, the bystanding musician commented “Oh yeah, that’s pretty.”

“Mmhm. She’s gonna have some eyelashes too,” was the trumpeter’s response.

Breaking for a moment from the game as he began to draw the horns, Manny asked “They have some kind of unit on their head too, don’t they? Like big-ass goats, right?” Mr. Laureano proceeded to finish the drawing, promptly declare checkmate, and play a Rachmaninoff symphony. Cause that’s just how he rolls.

Now, a giraffe from the principal trumpet is a beautiful victory in itself, but it still left the big fish to be fried. As I watched Osmo conduct the second half I was almost certain I saw his baton trace the outline of a giraffe in mid-air. Determined to acquire a giraffe from the director, a squad of friends and I surrounded the backstage area and loading dock to intercept him. Musicians and instruments flooded out the doors one after another, but the maestro was nowhere to be seen. Figuring that he had already snuck out the door, the team and I gave up the chase and headed for home.

Just as hope was dwindling, though, I caught sight of the back of a particular curly white-haired head as I passed the backstage doors one last time. I reversed direction and walked in. Sure enough, it was Osmo Vänskä himself. I waited for a lull in the conversation he was having with another musician and interjected.

“Er…excuse me, Mr. Vänskä, I was wondering if I could make a somewhat strange request.” He slowly turned around and gave me a look unlike any I’ve encountered before. It was a look of mixed surprise, unease, and impatience, a look I can only describe as one most people might give if they were ordering a meal at Taco John’s only to find they were out of Potato Olés. Every eye in a twenty foot radius turned and stared at us. After a break of silence that seemed to last an eternity he spoke:

“Well, that depends.”

I gave the pitch and watched as the spectators’ faces broke into smiles and laughs, as if to say “Why what a brilliant idea! Please, Osmo, give this eager, doe-eyed young lad a giraffe!” The look stayed on the conductor’s face with a coldness as harsh as the desolate Finnish wasteland from whence he came. “I’m very busy.”

I was stunned. The possibility of a rejection hadn’t even crossed my radar. “Sir, it’ll only take 30 seconds of your time, you can do it right now.”

Osmo was unmoved. “I’m going to be out of the country next week, I’m very busy.”

“30 seconds, sir. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. In fact it’s best if it’s not.”

Cold. So cold.

After a while of trying to convince the maestro (a while, I should mention, that almost certainly would have been long enough for him to draw a freaking giraffe) I gave up, and walked away empty-handed.

I bet Vänskä’s giraffe wouldn’t have had such pretty eyelashes anyway.