gapingvoid is interested in start-up culture, because changing business for the better is what we’re about; that’s what Social Object Factory is about. We live and breathe it; we help everyone from lone entrepreneurs, to mid-sizers, to Fortune 500’s do the same. Check out our work here.
We create art that helps companies kick ass, end of story.
In March 2010, I traveled, sometimes with others, sometimes alone, coast-to-coast across the USA from Boston to Los Angeles. Our main method of transportation was the train – We chose to pre-plan our itinerary and to organise tweetups wherever we could in order to meet people and make new connections.
One of our goals was to visit the SXSWi festival in Austin TX via a more interesting route than direct flight nut primarily we wanted to see whether it could be done and what help our online social networks could be.
I learned that letting go of control of where we were staying and what we would do led to far richer experiences. Yes it was interesting and exciting to meet new people and those I’d only ever tweeted at but the highpoints of the journey included not knowing where we were going to stay in New Orleans until a friend of a friend lent us her house for four days or when I unexpectedly found myself playing ukulele with 25 Hawaiian-shirted senior citizens in Maryland.
South By South West is an annual pilgrimage for a lot of people. Lloyd likes to take that annual SXSW pilgrimage to an extreme. An annual spiritual search, as it were. “Austin as Jerusalem 2.0″, as it were. As opposed to just another trade show for handing out business cards, getting drunk and hanging out in strip clubs. It’s inspiring to see…
[Got a good #EvilPlans story you want to share? Feel free to ping me via email@example.com, Thanks!]
1. SXSW is the only “MUST ATTEND” event on my calendar. It’s the one show I never miss, ever. Unless you’ve already been, it’s hard to convey JUST HOW MUCH more fun, interesting and full of business opportunities it is, compared to other shows. I can’t emphasize enough, if you’re into the Internet, just how much you’re missing out if choose not to attend. Sure, the price of going [entry fee, plane fare, hotel bill, taxi rides etc] might be quite daunting for some of us, but compared to the business and networking you could EASILY end up doing there, that cost is minuscule.
2. So you thought last year was crazy? Last year had ten thousand attendees. I heard on good authority from somebody inside the org that this year’s numbers have doubled. Hope you got a good hotel booking.
4. I’ll be signing books. Barnes & Noble will have a little micro store on the fourth floor of the convention center, selling books written by some of the attendees. I’ll be there to sign copies of “Ignore Everybody” on Monday, March 15th at 5.20pm. My signing will last for 30 minutes.
5. Free Booze! Free Sex! A lot of companies sponsor parties, so as long as you have a pass, it’s pretty easy to go the entire five days without ever paying for a single drink or meal. Plus with all the young singles everywhere, everybody’s trying to get laid. X-thousand geek twenty-somthings trying to hook up en masse is pretty entertaining to watch. By Sunday or Monday everybody’s a basket case.Which is why the veterans are always telling the newbies, “Pace Yourself”.
6. Creating an island of calm in a sea of bodies. It’s going to be a madhouse this year, so to make ourselves easier to find, gapingvoid has hired a trade show booth for the event. If you want to meet up, that’s where you can find me. I’ll be selling art, doing business, signing drawings and exchanging business cards. My focus this year will be much more about business, than my usual hallway wanderings.
7. I’m better organized, this time. Pretty much all the parties and events I’m planning to attend are already in my calendar. In past years I just turned up and went with the flow. It was exhausting after about three days. Never again.
9. SXSW makes me proud to be Texan. I’ve seen this a lot: People come to Texas for the first time to attend SXSW, and “fall in love with the barbecue”. Texas has always been a very misunderstood State, if you ask me. SXSW does a great job of helping to fix that, at least with my crowd.
That smoker’s been there over 3o years, they tell me. And the guy who smokes the meat has been there even longer.
One more reason to love living out here.
People were quite surprised when I moved out to Alpine, nearly two years ago. They had gotten used to me being from New York or London.
But I had always imagined ending up somewhere like here eventually. It was just a case of waiting for both the Internet and the ol’ art career to reach a certain critical mass. When that day finally arrived, the move happened rather quickly.
And it could not have happened at a better time. In the last few months business has gotten a lot more hectic. For reasons still unclear to me, the private commissions just started coming in faster and faster. Why now, I wonder? I don’t think I cold have coped with it nearly as well, living in a big city.
[Click on image to enlarge etc.]
Greetings from Alpine, Texas. I left here two days ago, and flew to New York City from El Paso [a 220 mile drive to the airport], in order to sign the the Ignore Everybody prints.
Yes, it was actually cheaper and easier to fly up there and sign them, than to ship them down here. Go figure.
After a few hours signing them at the printer’s, I rushed off the Island of Manhattan yesterday afternoon, to catch a flight back to El Paso via DFW.
I was in my bed at the hotel in El Paso by midnight. Slept like a log. This morning I went to buy some art supplies in downtown El Paso, had a bit of lunch at Rudy’s, then drove 220 miles back home to Alpine.
A quick visit, to say the least. “Welcome To The Over-Extended Class” etc.
Among my purchases this morning was a big roll of canvas. The plan is to make a series of large, 48“x48” [4 foot-by-4 foot] canvases, i.e. exactly the same height, and one-half the width of desertmanhattan. The wee sketch above should give you an idea what I’m talking about.
I’m thinking of calling these “The Marfa Series”, named after Marfa, the next town over from Alpine, 26 miles away. I drive there and back about three or four times a week; it’s one of my favorite drives in the world. The drive inspired the idea for the the series in a SERIOUSLY big way.
Some will be cranked out in a couple of days. Some will take a lot longer, even a couple of months. I have no idea where this is taking me, other than I think I’ll end up somewhere pretty interesting. Look for them for sale over on the gallery over the next few months or so, or feel free to e-mail me if you’re looking to commission one. Thanks. [Backstory: About Hugh. Twitter. Newsletter. Book. Interview One. Interview Two. EVIL PLANS.Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades.]
[A print idea for #evilplans. Click on image to enlarge etc.]
EUREKA! I had my EVIL PLANS road trip idea, but it was lacking the social object it needed to really work.
Sure, driving around Texas with a video camera and an idea about “Dream Big” was all very well, but it needed something to work as a totem for the Stormhoek wine. IDEA: Hand-painted wine bottles.
I’ve drawn on Stormhoek wine bottles before, using painting sticks. They looked kinda cool. While I travel around Texas, I’ll be making them to hand out to people who went to all the trouble to support this enterprise. See image above to get a rough idea what it might look like…
This is exciting. The road trip idea is suddenly A LOT More interesting, all of a sudden. Rock on.
[Update: Just added this blog post to EVIL PLANS.]
[Never a dull moment in West Texas etc. A video of me telling some local people down in Terlingua all about Stormhoek.]
I recently made the acquaintance of the proprietors of both The Starlight Theater and La Kiva, two prominent bars down in Terlingua. The meetings went well– I liked them both, they seemed to like me. So it looks like we might be selling down there, fingers crossed. Hurrah!
Terlingua, 100 miles South of Alpine, Texas, right on the Mexican border, is probably the strangest place I’ve ever visited in my life– it has an unreality to it quite unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. But there’s a wonderful appeal to it, that’s for sure. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be living in the old Wild West, this is probably as close as you’re going to get, first hand. The people, architecture and landscape seem right out of a Sam Peckinpah movie.
So why try selling South African wine in Terlingua? “Futile Marketing”, of course…
[My pal, Jeffro singing at Harry’s Tinaja, Alpine, Texas.] I’m taking to the road. Here are some notes:
1. Now that IGNORE EVERYBODY is done and in the book stores, it’s time to do something else. In the last couple of days, I’ve gotten several emails from people that they saw the book selling in airport bookshops. Wow. It doesn’t get any more “mainstream” that that, I’m happy to report. At least I can’t accuse it of being “undiscovered”. And for me, as a blogger, it’s nice to be able to break out of the Web 2.0 echo chamber. Exactly.
2. So I was having a drink with a friend the other day, and he asked me what my next plan was. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that “I’m going to go on the road, and stay on the road, until Stormhoek is the best selling South African wine in Texas.”
3. I’m bringing my computer along. I’ll be blogging my adventures en route. Hoping to be posting travel-diary videos on YouTube as well.
4. I’ll be limiting my travels to the State of Texas. Luckily it’s a big State and there’s plenty to discover.
5. I’m bringing my computer along. I’ll be working on my second book while I’m traveling. I have a vague idea what it’s about…
6. I’m bringing my computer along. I hoping to meet other Texan bloggers and Twitters on my travels.
7. Hoping to draw a lot of new cartoons en route as well. Hoping that some new prints will come out of it.
8. I don’t really have a plan. But I am leaving as soon as I can get organized. You’ll be able to follow my adventure on Twitter easily enough.
9. This idea will probably fail. “Futile Marketing” etc. Rock on.
10. [Update:] Just Twittered this blog post: “@gapingvoid is proud to present: THE WORST MARKETING IDEA EVER!!!!!” Yep. That’s about right… [etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
[Marketing. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…]
With all the activity over IGNORE EVERYBODY and the prints these last few months, I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t spending more time on the Stormhoek project.
It’s hard to do everything.…
The wine is selling well here in Alpine, Texas. It’s a small town of six thousand, word is easy to spread if you’re doing something interesting. But I have my eyes set on bigger horizons.
Like I said before, I’m just going to focus the marketing efforts on the State of Texas. Doing the whole country is just WAY too complicated, not to mention expensive.
I’ve asked our distributors to send me a list of all the stores, bars and restaurants that they cover in Texas. I’m thinking of going on a road trip. I’m thinking of visiting some of these places. I’m thinking of bringing a video camera along. I’m thinking of asking Jeffro to come with me, at least for part of it.
I’m just thinking… [etc: About Hugh. Interview. Newsletter. Book. Limited Edition Prints. Private Commissions. Cube Grenades. Hughtrain.]
[Picture taken from the Marfa Plain, looking Southeast, about 15 miles West of Alpine, Texas. Cathedral Mountain in the distance.]
I’m writing this from Miami. Heading back to West Texas tomorrow. I woke up this morning looking forward to my return, so what the heck, I posted the photo above. JP Rangaswami is in town on vacation; Jason and I met him and his lovely family two night ago for drinks [Talk about well-brought-up children. Gosh. Off the scale.].
We talked briefly about me being in Alpine. “It seems like you needed to take your foot off the accelerator,” he said. Yup. That’s about it.
Yesterday I wrote about making more limited edition prints for Stormhoek:
2. Lithographs. We had a lot of good fortune creating limited edition, fine art prints. Everything from the Blue Monster series, to the Techcrunch party poster. Basically, I want to spend a LOT OF TIME in the next year, signing limited edition lithographs and getting them in to the hands of anybody who may want one. These lithographs will hopefully become “Social Objects”, which anyone who knows me will know, I believe is the future of marketing. It is my belief that, if we can get enough of them printed, signed and out there, they’ll create enough interesting conversations which will INDIRECTLY move a lot of cases of wine . The big question is, [A] How many prints would I need to sign in order to make that happen and [B] If the answer is, “A Lot”, will I have the time, discipline and stamina to go the distance? Yes, it’s a huge challenge. Then again, so is climbing Mount Everest.
And a few days ago I wrote about landing a book deal with Penguin. “Exciting News etc.“
The needs of being a cartoonist, and the needs of being a “Web 2.0 marketing guy” are very different. Though it wasn’t an overnight decision, recently I decided to re-adjust my life to something that was more conducive to being the former, as opposed to be the latter.
Was this a wise move? We’ll see. What is a Web 2.0 marketing guy, anyway? Somebody who gets paid to have “Ever-Fragmenting Conversations about Ever-Fragmenting Conversations.” Compared to tarring roofs in Texas in summer, it’s not a bad job, but… Whatever.
But one hundred years from now, I’ll be dead, and this website will be gone. Nobody will be talking about Web 2.0 anymore. But a wee voice tells me some of the cartoons will be still floating around, maybe online, maybe in books, maybe one or two of the originals will be hanging in private collections.
And God Willing, some of the jokes will still be funny…
[Cathedral Mountain, 6,122ft. Picture taken bu my father, about 20 miles South of Alpine, Texas.]
It’s been just over a week since I got back to Alpine after SXSW Interactive. Here are some random notes.
1. I’ve not much to report, to be honest. I’ve deliberately been living as slowly and quietly as possible. I think a lot of us are still recovering from SXSW.
2. I have no idea how long I will stay in Alpine. All that I know is that I don’t want to leave right now. I have no plans of going anywhere else, except on business.
3. It looks like I found me an office. Sul Ross [the local university] rents out some office units as part of some sort of “Entrepreneur Center” program that they’re running. Fax, photocopier, all that good stuff. Cost: about $150 dollars a month.
4. Housing is not a problem, either. I was staying with my dad and stepmom, but recently I moved into a cheap and cheerful motel. Hotels, Motels and rented places go for between $500 and $1000 a month, which after London and New York, is not something that worries me too much. Housing prices are about $80-$150K, which again, compared to what I was used to seeing in Europe, is peanuts.
5. If I decide to stay for a long time, I’ll need to buy me a car. I’m thinking a used pickup truck, the kind that runs forever. The local classified ads are awash with them. In the meantime, I just placed an order for a new Raleigh from the local bike shop. The town is pretty flat, and only two miles at its widest, so getting around isn’t much of a problem.
6. Dad and I had a fun time a few days ago, driving up to Odessa, Texas, 140 North East of here. He had a doctor’s appointment up at the Medical Centre there, and I had to go to the Social Security office to get me a new copy of my Social Security card, in order that I could reapply for my old Texas driver’s license. Including the wait in line, I was in and out of the office inside ten minutes, I kid you not. Could you imagine how long that would have taken had I been in New York, London, or Paris?
7. About thirty miles North of Alpine you start leaving the mountains and start entering the cotton fields. Flat landscapes that seem to go on forever, interrupted only by telegraph poles. They’re growing some cotton up there, but a lot of the field are not being currently used– the current high price of oil makes running the irrigation machinery prohibitive. A bit further North and you start entering oil country ands the Odessa environs. Oil Derrecks, Pumpjacks, and lots of semi-ghost town with disused mobile homes and spare parts lying around the place. It takes a lot more people to set up the oil fields than it takes to maintain them, so abandoned dwellings are a pretty common sight.
8. Up in this part of the world [50 – 100 miles North of Alpine] the one thing you don’t see is a lot of cattle. There simply isn’t enough water for them in those parts, so I’m told.
9. Once you enter oil country you are immediately hit by the rather unpleasant smell of the oil and gas fields. The locals like the smell, though. “Smells like money,” as they like to say.
10. There’s not much I can tell you about Odessa. On first impression, it’s not a pretty place. About 100,000 people. Pick-up trucks, Strip malls, bungalows, oil industry stuff and little else. The aforementioned medical center and the current high price of oil seem to be the main economic engine.
11. We never made it to Midland, the next town over from Odessa, about 30 miles East. That’s where George W. Bush calls home. I’m told it’s not too different from Odessa, only a bit more upscale; Generally it’s regarded as the nicer town of the two. This is where you catch a plane if you’re heading East, from Midland-Odessa airport. If you’re heading to the West Coast from Alpine, you fly out of El Paso.
12. While Dad went for his doctor’s appointment, after I had gotten my Social Security business settled, to my delight I found a Starbucks only a block or two away. So I ordered my usual Grande Latte, hooked up my computer to the internet and entered the same world I enter when I’m in Alpine, New York or London. The internet has become the great leveler for me.
13. Though hardly the most authentic place in the world, if you want cheap and cheerful Italian cuisine in Odessa, you could do a lot worse than go to Corino’s. The people there are pretty friendly.
14. My intention is, once I get settled [Place to live, office, car, driver’s license etc], my plan is to go into overdrive for a couple of months. I have a lot of work needing done.
15. Happy Easter, Everybody!
[A still from “No Country For Old Men”, which was filmed around Marfa, the next town over from Alpine, Texas, where my father lives. “There Will Be Blood” was filmed around here, as well.] This is my sixth full day in Alpine. Here are some notes on my time here so far, in no particular order:
1. Alpine, population circa 6,000, is actually a pretty prosperous place as far as West Texas towns go. This is mainly due to Sul Ross State University, where my dad used to teach before he retired. Besides that, the main industry round these parts is ranching. 10,000 acres is considered a small ranch. Some ranches have over 200,000 acres.
2. My main daytime hangout in town is La Trattoria, a chilled-out bistro that serves as a coffee shop by day, with excellent, authentic Italian food by night. Owned and operated by Allyson Santucci [a great, strong lady], their website is here.
3. Evenings I don’t go out much. I just stay in and talk to my dad. We’ve not seen each other in a few years, so it’s a good thing.
4. I haven’t been this chilled out and relaxed since.… ummmmm.… the last time I was in Alpine, September, 1999. Funny, that.
5. It’s not official, and I’m just going to play it by ear, but I’m thinking of making Alpine my permanent US base. A lot depends on how many gigs I get this side of the Atlantic in 2008.
6. If I ever end up living permanently in the US again, it’ll be here. Nowhere else.
7. “Located 3 miles East of Marfa, Texas on US Highway 67/90, the vineyard and winery are surrounded by awe-inspiring Desert Mountain Ranges. Our West Texas sunsets over the mountains are spectacular, and Luz de Estrella is perfectly positioned to take full advantage of them.” Apparently this is the best wine made in Texas. They sell their wines at Whole Foods Market, all over. I visited their winery earlier today. I was impressed. Not just by the wine, but also the fact that they have real Texas Longhorn cattle on the property.
8. My father is a trained geologist. Since retiring from his teaching gig, he’s been publishing his own books. He writes about the local geology. He actually sells a heck of a lot of them ’round here– simply because a lot of folk who visit here want to know more than WHAT the mountains and desert looks like, they also want to know WHY they look the way they do. And nobody does this better than my father. My good friend, Doc Searls, a geology geek, was reading his stuff even before he knew that we two MacLeod’s were related. Backstory here. Small world.
9. Yesterday evening, after spending the afternoon working in the library at Sul Ross, I popped into La Trattoria for an end-of-day glass of wine. In the corner was playing a FABULOUS acoustic four piece C&W act, called The Doodlin’ Hogwallops. Their MySpace page is here. All young men, I’m guessing the average age was about 26. The lead singer, Neal, was a REALLY talented musician. Seriously. His original songs were just as fresh and inspiring as the classics he also covered. Though I make no claims to be a particularly gifted talent-scout, I found their act a truly moving experience. I hope you’ll check them out if you ever get a chance. I’ve already promised myself I’d tell certain friends of mine in the music business about them. Rock on.
10. Marfa, population circa 2100, the place made famous in the art world by Donal Judd, is the next town over from Alpine. Though it’s not a town without its charms, and for all its newly acquired, art-world trendiness, it seems a lot more run-down than Alpine. I can see why the filmmakers like using it as a cinematic backdrop. For some reason there it’s easy for a filmmaker to project “Godless & Bleak” through the camera lens, although I find the actual landscape in real life anything but. Apparently the New York and Hollywood crowd love to fly in there for the weekend, but weekdays I hear it’s a bit of a ghost town. Earlier today my father and I visited the town for lunch. He knows a lot of people there, who sell his books. Vicki over at The Hotel Paisano springs most to mind. She’s done a great job running the retail store there. This hotel, a local architectural landmark, was where James Dean and Liz Taylor stayed while filming “Giant”, all those years ago.
11. They say you can always tell the history of a place by their most prominent buildings. In Europe, we’re talking castles, palaces and cathedrals. New York we’re talking office buildings. In West Texas, it’s invariably the county courthouse. Historically, the establishment of Law & Order is a big deal here, and the more one knows of the local history, the less one is surprised. The Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa I find especially trippy, but in a good way, the same way I find Paris’ Sacre-Coeur pretty trippy etc.
12. This part of the world is full of real, working ranches, and real, working cowboys. The latter are an impressive lot in real life– I would not recommend messing with them. They’re a much different breed from the cowboy-hat wearing rednecks from my oil rig days, though I still hold lots of affection for the latter [I occasionally worked offshore in the Gulf of Mexico during my college days]. After all, cowboys physically wrestle with cattle all day long [a surprisingly strong, robust, and violent beast], so they’re not exactly intimidated by us city-slicker or “Urban Cowboy” types, truth be told. Waiting in the coffee line at La Trattoria yesterday morning, in front of me was a young cowboy getting his morning Joe. Seeing a real cowboy ordering a caffe latte is a real disconnect, somehow. You can tell they’re real cowboys five ways: 1. They’re built like oxen on steroids, with hands the size of baseball mitts. 2. They’re wearing spurs. 3. Their cowboy boots go over their knees. 4. They seem to have this uncanny combination of [A] a happily calm disposition, seamlessly mixed with [B] a palpable undercurrent of “I can, and will happily rip you in half, in less than three seconds, but only if I gotta”. Not a bad combo to have. 5. They’re surprisingly young. Like the movie says, “No Country For Old Men”.
13. West Texan interaction is all about mastering two arts. [A] Being genuinely friendly and courteous, especially to women, children and the elderly. [B] Speaking with as few words as possible. You need to be able to do both, and do them well, or else they look at you funny. Again, not a bad combo to have.
14. A nice two bedroom house in this town goes for around $100K or so. In London, you’d be lucky to get a tool shed for that amount. For someone seeking increasingly high levels of solitude, I find the property market here sorely tempting.
15. The big tourist draw in this neck of the woods is Big Bend National Park, which I’ve never been to before. 120 miles South of here, Dad and I are hopefully checking it out tomorrow. Watch this space.
[View of Apline, Texas from my dad’s porch. Twin Peaks mountain in the background. Click on image to enlarge etc.] [UPDATE: It seems my cellphone doesn’t get coverage in West Texas. Please e-mail me if you’re trying to get in touch. Thanks.]
I’m writing this from Alpine, Texas, where my dad lives. Hanging here for the next week or two. Hardcore West Texas, Brewster County. Miles away from anywhere, just how I like it [Movies like “Giant”, “There Will Be Blood”, “Dancer, Texas” and “No Country For Old Men” were all filmed ’round here… not to mention, the famous Marfa Lights.]. Blogging light for the next while. Off to NYNY after this. Rock on.