A Love Letter to James Franco

Abstract: I wrote this article about my admiration for James Franco’s lust for life. When it was first published it ranked among the most popular articles on the site.

Originally published on TNGG.

As I sit down to write this piece, I have to wonder if James Franco might take a crack at it for me. Of course, he’d probably pee on my computer as part of a performance art piece and possibly make a documentary about doing it. Sounds weird, but coming from a PhD candidate at Yale, maybe there’s something to it.

Much has been written about Franco’s exploits outside Hollywood, and there isn’t a lot left to say. Just about everyarticle on the successful actor, student and aspiring artist* begins with a laundry list of what he’s up to: attending graduate school, writing short stories and novels, directing and starring in documentaries and student films, opening galleries, and a litany of other creative projects, all at the same time.

But my interest is not so much the what, but the how and why.

When you look at what he’s accomplished, Franco seems inhuman. But he’s actually not that unlike the rest of us. Yes, he is intelligent, a quick study and bursting with energy (though frequently exhausted). However, as The New Yorker points out: James isn’t a savant or a prodigal genius either, “he’s someone of mortal abilities who seems to be working immortally hard… Franco’s work gives off a student-y vibe. It exudes effort.”

From what I can tell, it comes down to one simple thing, he gives a shit about life. In fact, I think he might be addicted to it.

This past September, Dave Franco shot an interview with his brother James during Esquire’s cover shoot. There’s an odd chemistry between them, like two friends reuniting after years apart. Here, a human side shines through not captured on The Daily Show or TODAY Show.

The warmth and authenticity of his smile grabs you. His whole body laughs, eyes squinting and cheeks up, with a grin that draws creases across his face–like a camera flash that keeps going off.

But, while Franco’s smile is infectious, his lust for life is an outright bio-hazard. It affects you on a physiological level, like he’s bleeding enthusiasm through the screen. Not the jumping on sofa with Oprah type, more like the relentless calm of a man on a mission.

Keep in mind, at any given time he’s likely just jumped off a plane from a poetry reading in South Carolina and will, right after whatever he’s doing, dash off to LA or NYU or Germany for another job, or lecture, or project. And yet he’s here, and focused. Midway through, his brother asks him about down time.

Dave: “When was like the last time you weren’t working on something? Just sitting there and doing nothing?”
James: “I don’t even know what that means.”

Saturday Night Live might poke fun at Franco’s many projects, “I like having jobs!” But it’s hard to deny that there is something special about his motivation: he’s in it for himself. In a world where we define ourselves within the confines of social scripts and the approval of others, it’s like he’s found a way to break free.

Upon receiving news that he was nominated for an Oscar–perhaps the highest achievement for any actor–Franco chose to attend his class on Byron, Keats and Yates rather than head down to New York for press.

When it comes to male role models for this generation, I’m not sorry to say that guys like Eminem and Diddy are a complete waste of space. Franco matters because he isn’t just cool. He’s like a James Dean who cares about doing well in school.

He’s a rebel with a cause beyond money or fame. He’s a rebel making the most out of every moment of life he’s got, so much so that boredom and downtime and sleep are the enemy.

I know it’s insane. But it’s the type of insanity I can get behind. The type of insanity that keeps you up late and makes you skip showers. The type that says I am going to die so I better live.

Dave: “I get out of bed when I have something to do.”
James: “Don’t you feel like there’s always stuff to do…”

Sending All My Love To You (Boston)

On Monday my best friend Alex Pearlman, a reporter for The Boston Globe and Radio BDC, was in Copley Square when the bombs went off. She penned a firsthand account of what she saw that I’d like to share.

I Was At the Boston Marathon Bombing, This is My Story

It has been very strange to see my home in such disarray from so far away. Boston is a small town and it’s home to 80% of my friends and family. On Monday my Facebook feed was almost exclusively notes reading “I’m okay” and “I’m safe”.  I got texts from friends reading, “I can’t stop crying” and e-mails from others admitting they were afraid to ride the train the next day. But then they did.

It was especially surreal to experience how the friend-driven web can make you feel so close to a place. I could almost feel the worry and confusion through the screen. I was reminded of reading tweets and listening to audio messages (via Google) coming out of Egypt two years ago and how close I felt to complete strangers. This time it was my friends, it was Alex.

Bostonians, not unlike the New Yorkers I’m surrounded by today or Americans in general, are resilient and proud of their home. I imagine the noise, the confusion, the fear and the eerily quiet night that followed the bombing will stay with my community for some time. Though I can’t feel it directly, I know it must hurt, but I’m sure it will only make us stronger, kinder and fiercer friends in the end.

Be brave Boston, I miss you and love you.


PS great article by Chris Faraone: Boston, Through a Crisis Darkly

“I just can’t help but stop every couple of feet to note how drastically the Hub changed since two bombs went off near Copley Square… this landscape is a wholly unfamiliar beast.”

New to New York

I haven’t taken many pictures as I’ve been too busy having my senses assaulted and learning how to get around the concrete jungle. That said, here are a few things that have caught my eye while running for trains or brunch.

Alumni Spotlight: Semester in Washington at GWU

This is a great big thank you to the Semester in Washington Program at GW that taught me so much back in the summer of 2007 about campaign management and the mechanics of Washington, D.C. Below is a link the the alumni spotlight they just wrote about me.

Jason Potteiger, Suffolk University Political Research Center (SUPRC)
December 21, 2012

Time and again, alumni of the Semester in Washington Politics program point to this experience as a career starter. Jason Potteiger is an alumnus who remembers fondly his summer studying and interning in the nation’s capital…

Jason has worked as a research strategist (a political analyst, strategist and project manager rolled into one) for political pollster David Paleologos since May 2010. He was hired to assist the Suffolk University Political Research Center (SUPRC) with the midterm elections and as a consultant for Paleologos’ polling company, DAPA Research Inc. At DAPA Research, Jason has worked on projects for political (from municipal to Congressional) and corporate clients… [read the full spotlight].



Not Voting? Consider the Blank Administration

TL;DR I’m a young political pollster and there’s a reason to vote most people don’t know about: those who vote get polled – and polling drives our politics more than most realize.

You’ve been taught that your vote is important.

But, for voters outside of swing states or for those generally disenchanted with the political process, participation drops off. However, there’s another reason to vote you don’t know about.

I’m a young pollster. In my few short years in the political industry I’ve come to understand something most people don’t realize: voters influence much more than elections. Politicians and political groups field polls of registered voters year-round, not just during elections, and these data points are a driving force in Washington.

It didn’t used to be this way. The postscript to Eric Redman’s Aaron Sorkin-esque novel The Dance of Legislation (1973) – required reading for most political science freshmen – says it best. Reflecting on his belief as a young man that government was a proactive force that led the nation, he wrote, “Today, the reverse seems more nearly correct: change in the land produces movement (if we’re lucky) in Washington D.C.”

That is, Washington today is reactionary. The politics of Capitol Hill, the White House, and political campaigns nationwide are driven primarily by polling data.

Politics has learned well from business that data is king. On a daily basis, polling data steers the political policy and rhetoric of the United States in the 21st century. And who’s opinions are counted on these polls? The opinions of registered voters.

Simply put, the roughly 50 percent of eligible voters who vote comprise the defacto ruling elite of the American experiment. Those who abstain from voting are not polled, they are not counted and they are quickly forgotten.

Anyone who says they aren’t voting as a means of protest are fooling themselves.

If you wish to make any sort of statement, you must cast a ballot, even if you leave it blank. Blank votes are counted, and those voters are polled. Politicians will listen to all voters, even those that cast blank ballots.

It’s time we saw voting as more than a choice – as campaigns would have us believe – but as act that is virtuous in and of itself. It’s not about party, or candidate, it’s about showing up. When you cast your vote: Blank, Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian or otherwise, you acknowledge you are part of the American community, you call yourself my brother or my sister, and you ensure your voice will be heard on election day and throughout the year.

It feels like things are broken beyond fixing, but it will only truly be broken when we walk away.

The candidates and our government may be the problem, but those who walk away will never be part of the solution.

I’m Hacking Yes.Oui.Si.

I’m supporting the Brand Hack Team that’s re-branding the multisensory production company Yes.Oui.Si. on September 26, 2012! The hack is a spectator event (it’s about showcasing the creative process). Watch live at the Revere Hotel as brilliant team of strategists, designers and copywriters to re-brand the company in just one day. Check out The Brand Hack for more details.

“Hello Hackers!

We are confirmed for the next Brand Hack at Revere Hotel on Wednesday September 26th! The eight hour day will take place in the back of Revere’s Emerald Lounge. The public reveal and after-party will be part of Future Boston Alliance’s ASSEMBLE series. Hackers please plan to arrive at the Revere by 8:30.  We will start promptly at 9am.

So far, the Yes.Oui,Si! Brand Hack team is:

Dave Demerjian

Emily Isenberg
Community Engagement Strategy

Jason Pottegier [that’s me!]

Ben Whitla

Caitlin McCabe
Social Media Strategy

Ben Spear
Creative Director

Allana Taranto
Project Management, Portraiture

Thursday at the ICA

Down on Fan Pier every Thursday night the ICA is free from 5-9pm. Last night may have been a bit busier than normal as the ICA is currently hosting the the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and a preliminary round had just finished up when I arrived. Still, even sans speedos, the museum steps overlooking the bay packed with people just hanging out made me feel like I was in Europe. Boston is such a different sort of city in the Summer, I’m sad it’s almost over!

Prudential Pics

I came across these on r/boston today. Apparently the Pru is getting a new paint job, and the painter posted these pictures. This doesn’t really fit the blog because it has nothing to do with me, still it’s pretty cool.

“The Prudential Tower, also known as the Prudential Building or, colloquially, The Pru, is a skyscraper in Boston, Massachusetts. The building, a part of the Prudential Center complex, currently stands as the 2nd-tallest building in Boston, behind the John Hancock Tower. The Prudential Tower was designed by Charles Luckman and Associates for Prudential Insurance. Completed in 1964, the building is 749 feet (228 m) tall, with 52 floors.” via Wikipedia