Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia: A Graphic Biography
Herbert Marcuse is not a household name in the same way today as, say, Marshall McLuhan, another intellectual who broke into mainstream consciousness. However, Marcuse was a huge focal point for many protesters during the sixties and his ideas have great relevance for today’s challenging times. I say this as a way to cast as wide a net as possible for potential readers of a very compelling new work in the comics medium, Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia: A Graphic Biography, co-authored and drawn by Nick Thorkelson, edited by Paul Buhle and Andrew T. Lamas, published by City Lights. It was my pleasure to get a chance to interview Mr. Thorkelson.
Herbert Marcuse, a hero of the student protest movement.
Marxism. Socialism. Capitalism. Philosophy. All of this does not add up to light and casual reading. However, a concise grinding through the comics medium can result in something quite enlightening–and here Nick Thorkelson succeeds to unpack issues with just the right touch. If you are at all interested in the politics and philosophy behind the tumultuous times we live in, then you will appreciate diving into this graphic biography. We cover in this interview just enough to give you a sense of the subject at hand. There’s the pesky sound of a leaf blower that momentarily vies for attention but it just goes to show that life is forever moving forward which is rather apropos to the spirit of our chat. Without a doubt, we live in dangerous and troubling times but, by learning from the past, it informs and inspires our present and our future. If you are not satisfied with the status quo, and dream of a better future, then you’ll want to read this essential guide to Herbert Marcuse.
Herbert Marcuse, Philosopher of Utopia is a 128-page trade paperback in duotone, available now, published by City Lights.
Honestly, I don’t see why I shouldn’t spring another chapter on you ahead of schedule if you’re ready. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, well, I just can’t see why that should be. I am dying to know what you think. And I’m even thinking of knocking the price down on the Kindle edition if I’m talked into it. Anyway, enough of that for now.
Remember, all you really need to know is that our hero, Fernando, is a rogue immigrant from Cuba. He means well and, in fact, he has a pretty darn important purpose in life!
Manuel and Paloma did have a son. However, their good fortune would not last. In 1959, Castro took control. Artists, intellectuals, and activists were all in danger. And, as the years passed, Castro and his regime would pluck out dissenters. One day, in 1967, Manuel was plucked and never seen again. And, when Fernando came of age, in the prime of his life, in 1977, he too was thrown into a prison cell. It was now 2017 and Manuel Rivera’s son, so full of promise and supposedly with a special purpose, had been languishing in a Cuban prison for the better part of his life. This is where our story of Fernando begins.
So many years locked away. Oh, the horror. Fernando, if he ever dared to dream, had lost much of his youthful spark, almost forgetting how to dream. If he had ever known his true calling, it had been buried deep inside him, beyond reach. Perhaps his father had only hinted at what lay ahead in Fernando’s future. But, for now, he was not much better off than a dog. And what could he possibly do now at this point in his life? Was he already too old? Were his best days behind him? Had he ever had better days? Still, like a dog, he had a strong survival instinct fully intact—and he had not completely given up. In fact, he remained a crafty little devil.
Fernando had been plotting his escape for years. Unlike many prisoners, Fernando valiantly did all he could to hold on to his soul. He had seen what had happened to many of his fellow Cubans. Many of them blamed themselves for getting locked away in prison. Somehow, there was a peculiar mindset that believed in Castro and that, no matter what he did, Castro had a very good reason for it! This was the control that an authoritarian had over his people. It exists to this very day and not only in Cuba but around the world, even in the United States of America. Hard to believe—but true. Fernando had enough to worry about just being in prison but he knew that Castro was wrong and that others like him were also just as wrong.
Fernando’s father, before he disappeared forever, had told his son that he was the reincarnation of Dale Carnegie, the world-renown motivational speaker. But what did that really mean? So many years later, was that supposed to be accepted at face value or was it just a metaphor, a symbol of hope? Fernando stirred at night trying to understand what it meant and what was to happen to him. Did he have any hope left? What helped him out a lot was the fact he had become a fixture in the prison system. He had been around for so long that he could pretty much come and go as he pleased—at least that is what he thought.
Sometimes, Fernando was locked into his cell with great ceremony. Other times, it seemed that, if he wanted to, he could walk right out of the prison. It was a big game with the guards, he was sure. It went unspoken with little rhyme or reason. No one seemed to care much what Fernando did. The guards were an odd mix of utter incompetence and light thinkers with glimmers of philosophical insight. “Let him walk right out of here,” Fernando overheard one of them say, “and he will run right back to what he knows best, his dull but familiar prison routine!”
Finally, the day would come when Fernando would have the last laugh. Before it really became too late, he would escape and never return.
Cal McAllister, Co-founder & CEO of Wexley School for Girls
With the Seattle Interactive Conference just closing up for another year, I wanted to share with you a very engaging and informative presentation I got to see today (more news to come later on), with a quick sketch of the presenter included. Seattle can be proud to say it is the home base for one of the great advertising agencies, Wexley School for Girls. SIC had the honor of having its Co-founder and CEO, Cal McAllister give a talk today.
The presentation by Cal McAllister, of Wexley School for Girls, was full of punchy lines like, “Social Media is like a weapons system. Social media is like an F-16. Once you acquire one, you have the power but you need to know how to operate it.” These thoughts were running through McAllister’s mind since Wexley is currently working on NATO’s efforts to use social media. Pretty heady stuff but McAllister certainly looked up to the challenge.
McAllister was going for an offbeat take on the 2013 SIC theme of transparency, talking about how we’re drowning in a clutter of facts, many of them fake facts, so transparency alone isn’t going to solve the problem. He skewered Jenny McCarthy for using her massive platform as a celebrity for spreading the idea that vaccines cause autism. He said that 98% of pediatricians don’t believe there is a connection so he’s going with that statistic. He provided similar examples of how facts get lost in the shuffle, like the recent viral video of an eagle lifting up a little boy hoax, and the little old lady who got a coffee burn from McDonald’s, which was a legitimate case but was exploited by the right as an example of a flimsy lawsuit.
Great take-away: People are proud of their decisions. Once they believe something, it is very difficult to get them to stop believing. When confronted with the facts, when given proof that they are wrong, they will shut down. So, despite all the proof of it being a hoax, people would rather believe that an eagle swooped down and picked up a little boy.
McAllister then went on to show how you win over customers: by giving them opportunities to participate. He took great pride in Wexley’s campaign to invigorate The Sounders brand. It was a three year process. First, you show the fans how to behave, like when to wave their scarves; then you bring back old traditions; and, finally, you allow the fans to own the game.
Another successful Wexley campaign was for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It was painting a message in a handicap parking lane at high schools that said that spot could be reserved for the next teen drunk driver. It is a controversial statement but it got the message across. And it specifically did not include the MADD brand since it actually alienates teens. “Teenagers already have one mad mother to deal with. They don’t need more,” said McAllister. That was perhaps the best line of the presentation, if not the whole SIC.
The last thought was sparked by a question on where Coca-Cola is headed with branding. McAllister thought it was great how Coke had partnered with Google on the Happiness campaign. “It’s just another great example of providing ‘added value’ for the customer,” said McAllister. Considering the theme of transparency, it is a curious place to stop. Can the giant of soft drinks, be associated with happiness? Well, that’s the magic of advertising. We’ll just have to see how NATO’s makeover works out. Can the military industrial complex really be associated with happiness? Oh, perhaps wrong campaign. One never knows for sure.
The fight is on to keep Cooper Union tuition free as was the explicit understanding of its founder, Peter Cooper. Following in the time honored tradition of a student “take-over,” students at Cooper Union are fighting to maintain a historically tuition-free education at one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the country.
Student Take Over of Office of President of Cooper Union, May 8, 2013
Founded in 1859, Cooper Union has three schools, Art, Architecture, and Engineering. Notable alumni of the Cooper Union School of Art incude Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Eva Hesse, Alex Katz, and Hans Haacke.