Archive for the year 2009

Daily Show Contest Video

The aughts were fraught with not a lot of thought.

Matt and I (today a gay couple) decide to enter the Daily Show Decade Contest (there’s still a few hours left to enter!) with “our” story of our decade as we try to figure out which year was the best for us. It’s a very short video and I hope that it helps you bring in 2010! A happy and healthy New Years’ to all. I’ll leave it up to you to guess which parts are exaggerated.

No more password for Castle on High!

Castle on High is my signature film. I hand it to people when networking and use it to show what I can do with narrative and people. It’s almost four years old, though I didn’t finish editing it to this polished version until February of this year.

If you would like to support me, the next screening of the film is on January 12 at the Helen Mills Theater in NYC. So watch a bit here and if you like it, I would be so appreciative of your attendance.

I had a password on it so that film festivals could claim a premiere. I never believed in that system, and thankfully in these short eight months or so, society has come to agree. Here it is. I’d love if you share it around!

Click here to watch it!

If that doesn’t work, download it here (slower, same quality.)

Castle on High

Tumblr-twitter-text-insight/year-gratitude

ADD you ain’t got nothing on me.

What a year / move to New York / 2009 Earworm mashup / Gaga is a Real Artist / WHY DO WE avert our eyes to the suffering in the world? HOW DO WE MAKE every action a positive one? There’s no hyperlink on this one, no answer but ourselves. / Jon Stewart rocks / just went to the Museum of the City of New York with Adam Lubitz. Very cool. / grateful to my roomates and friends in New York and from Brown / Tedblog is sheer brilliance, every word / Maha you’re a genius / the greatest Pandora station I have made – Ben Harper brings out the best in music / that I listened to while paintingshoes / The New York Times / Digital Democracy / Nate Silver / craigslist / online dating is a real adventure / oh did i mention new york? / pragmatism can be evil. it is important not just to act to achieve a good outcome but to LIVE ACCORDING TO PRINCIPLE FOR NO END BUT ITS OWN / Sari sold a photo to Urban Outfitters that is now in stores–off of Flickr! / David is conquering that which he must conquer / Mom is writing again / Dad is living with grace / eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired. / hoping to actually coordinate a family reunion this year / hoping to be successful doing what i love / everyone is a programmer now / i HATE the brand of one / I am the brand of one. / masturbation / going on a road trip to Florida with some of my best friends, and seeing some of my best friends / a Catholic priest is driving (craigslist!) / Boston NYC Atlanta Richmond, endless possibility / it is a sublime honor to share this life with all of you you / be the change you wish to see in the world </insight>

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Two trips to the Daily Show

Jon is known to frequently attack audience members. Watch out!

Jon is known to frequently attack audience members. Watch out!

After my powerful experience with Holiday Express, I had the opportunity to go to a Daily Show taping (in fact, two tapings within one week.) I’ve been to TV show tapings before, including the second to last episode of Frasier, but this beat them all by a head. Tickets were obtained tor free online in June, when I found two and snapped them up. The first time I went with Raquel, and the second with Adam, Jordan, and Melissa. It was nerd paradise, and the only minor cost was a multi-hour wait while the lower half of my legs patiently assumed freezing temperature.

My feet a thawing block of ice, I waited impatiently as the warmup guy went through his routine (summary: omg, there are people here from Canada. What’s that aboot?) Jon jumped onstage to our delightful clapping and spoke directly to us, taking questions from the audience. We learned some fascinating tidbits; for example, he tends to stay seated after the show on Wednesdays because they tape the International Edition, and the caliber of women he gets now that he is famous is much higher. (“Listen, I don’t think you understand. I am a TV star; things are different when you’re a TV star.”) I asked him whether he thought Sarah Palin can win the Republican Nomination and he said yes, and that he would love to get her on his show but she constantly refuses.

The first day’s guest was Gwen Ifill (if you don’t know her from PBS’s The Newshour and Washington Week, you will remember her from the 2008 Presidential Debate she hosted amidst accusations that her upcoming book on Obama would bias her moderation. The book is out, and she was plugging it. The greater revelation, though, was her coy and uncomfortable reaction when asked if she would become the host of This Week with George Stephanopoulos (go to 5:16)

The guest the next time was Ray LaHood, the US Secretary of Transportation. It wasn’t quite as cool, but the geek in all of us wanted to hear what he had to say (sadly, pretty much nothing.) They didn’t talk about former idiot Secretary Mary Peters’ statement that bicycles and foot paths are not forms of transportation, nor did they really say anything interesting. Far better was a sequence with Jon Hodgman (yes we got to see HIM!) on how to deal with our nation’s debt.

It’s an awesome experience, and I recommend compulsively checking the ticket site to anyone who is interested. All the graphics are rendered and sequences already edited, so being in the audience isĀ  just like watching the real show. Except you can scream obsene things and Jon will hear you!

Olark: A new way to creep your visitors out

OlarkI’ve been enjoying a new service called Olark. It pops a little click-to-chat box in the corner of my browser window, and lets any reader chat me instantly from my website, connecting with my Adium (or most other chat clients.) A service like this is miles away from the inclusion of an email link or phone number. It adds a comforting layer of anonymity while at the same time reaching out and saying “Here! I am available to chat with you, right here and now, with no further effort on your part.”

I’ve gotten some use out of it so far, with a few readers asking questions about my posts. I’m hoping that it turns my website into more of a two-way conversation, but for not it is mostly me pinging my visitors. “Hello,” I will say, “what’s up?”, this being incredibly risky considering I have absolutely no idea who the visitor is. So far, I think it’s been treated as spam or an odd gadget rather than a real human being waiting for a response, but I await the day when I message a reader of my blog and make a real connection.

How are you playing with technology and connection?

Our entry in the 140-second film contest!

Edit: Our REJECTED entry in the film contest. Failure is one of the many steps towards success, and it was an awesome video to make. So…SEE THE FILM THAT NIKON DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE!!

Hey @rainnwilson, I’m lookin’ at you. I just uploaded our entry to the Nikon 140-second film contest, and if we win the prize is $100,000! I will find out in a few weeks if we have been selected to be among the top 50, and if that happens I’ll need all of your help in getting the word out and getting people to watch and comment.

For now, a comment on the Nikon website will really help and go a LONG way! Give it a watch–it’s a comedy short about my unemployed roommate:

Caught in a Bad (sic) Romance

Gaga is awesome. In a world where so many musicians are candyfluff creations of studio execs, it can be hard to find anyone to look up to. She is a self-made sensation through and through, from her strikingly original fashion to her true musical talent and rise from honest musical roots (got to see that one if you haven’t yet.) It is hard for me not to respect someone so talented who has propelled herself to stardom on her own sweat and blood. Read her bio eh!

Her songs are so good as tunes alone, with the performance and even genre stripped away. Take a look at how many different ways you can cover Bad Romance (youtube original song):

Acoustic

Beautiful voice, why’d she have to fx-it-up?

Electric Guitar

I’m waiting for the Korn cover.

A band

But not your standard one. I don’t know how I feel about this one, but A for effort!

Thanks to Adam [@adamhr] for inspiration for this post! You can find some other ones. Doug reminded me of this acoustic Poker Face:

Wow.

This past Thursday was the inspiration for what will be three stories..when it rains, it pours.

Holiday Express

This story is about the nonprofit Holiday Express and an innovative fundraising strategy I hope to pull off by Christmas (if anybody with PHP or MySQL skills would like to help spread some joy, it would be very meaningful.)

Thankfully there was no rain this day, though; a week of nasty weather gave way to a somewhat tolerable day, which I greeted at 5:30 AM. Camera in one hand, tripod in the other, and my new Rhode NTG-2 microphone stored safely in its case, I caught the train to Red Bank, New Jersey to begin a day of filming for Holiday Express. This beautiful organization was founded by Tim McLoone in 1993 in an attempt to bring joy to the homeless through song. He and a few friends decided to play several concerts in New Jersey homeless shelters, and the response they received was tremendously appreciative. It has grown since then, and a workforce of hundreds now volunteers to bring concerts to 50 homeless shelters in 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I’d spoken with Don Pignataro, the Executive Director, about the organization, and had some sense of the enormity of its operations. I was not prepared for how the event would move me. The day’s location was a center for adults with disabilities in the Bronx; walking into a room filled with mentally handicapped people was surprising and stunning for a few minutes. The incongruity of their experience and mine was shocking: I was overwhelmed by this new experience and immediately felt pity and discomfort. They were thrilled, wearing red clothing and Santa hats, jumping up and down in excitement.

The band wasted no time in setting up and I hung back, unsure what I was allowed to film and what I was not. Tim reassured me that I could film anything, and only a few faces would have to be blurred afterward. Tim introduced the 6-piece band and three singers and his gregariousness was infectious. The musicians were all serious, many of them professional and some broadway stars. As soon as the Christmas songs began, everyone were up on their feet dancing.

And in just a single moment, I had no more hesitation and realized that these people and I spoke the same language of joy and love. I filmed deep into their eyes, welcoming them into the frame and feeling welcome into their lives. As they danced with one another and the volunteers, I darted around the room capturing this joy.

Two hours later, after the Grinch and Santa Claus had come out to spread their love and gift bags were handed out, I trekked my equipment to the Norwood Avenue subway stop (the terminus of the D line..another one down!) and sat waiting for the subway to leave; my heart was lighter and everyone in the world was a potential friend. The Holiday Express staff have told me that these experiences are as useful for the volunteers as they are for the members of the shelters, and I saw why. I forgot myself through giving, and was reminded of my own human potential to spread joy.

And spread joy I hope to do. I’m building an online Christmas card that you can send to others to see this miracle in action. Each purchase of a card will make money for Holiday Express, making it a triple whammy of holiday joy: showing a person that they are loved, the happiness of these people, and that you have chosen to support Holiday Express.

Tune into this blog at the end of the week for a link!

When life gives you lemons, make a margarita.

In that order.

In that order.

Thursday’s defeat of Gay Marriage in New York hit hard. It wasn’t as bad as Proposition 8, which hit with the sting of a fresh injury, but it was bad. Proposition 8 was a vote of the people, and I think that gay marriage’s short-term future is in the courts and legislatures, not popular votes. As was the case with Civil Rights, the people cannot be trusted (and should not always be consulted) to protect the minority. Of all the popular votes taken so far in the US on the issue of same-sex marriage, not one has come out in its favor. Vermont and New Hampshire, on the other hand, have legalized it through their legislatures, and MA and CT through court cases.

The day started out auspiciously, with a triumphant email from Courage Campaign promising that “The day many New Yorkers have longed for has arrived.” Events unfolded in realtime on the internet – a twitter hashtag collated comments and reactions to the speeches, and thanks to the Open Senate team there was a live video that streamed to over 10,000 viewers! Governor Paterson was hopeful that the bill would pass, and every speech on the Senate floor but one was impassioned and in support of marriage.

Its spectacular 38-24 failure is our spectacular failure, and another shred in the mountains of proof that we don’t naturally look past our prejudices to see the humans around us, in need just like us.

In defeat, I discovered an absolutely delicious drink (thanks to Lucian and Anna, who pretty much didn’t have anything else in your cabinet at the time.) Mix Hansen’s Pomegranate Soda with Jameson, and it’s a fantastic taste combination! I call it the Sweet Defeat.

So grab a drink and watch some of these incredible Senate speeches with me, reliving Wednesday’s hope that will one day swell and create equality. Help me pray for when the ignoramuses listen to reason as eloquent and touching as this:

  • My personal favorite: Eric Adams saying “You don’t have to be gay to respect that two people who meet each other and fall in love want to be married.”
  • The one that is making the rounds: Diane Savino makes a great argument about what we mean when we say “sanctity of marriage” and how important of an issue it is to support.
  • Thomas Duane opening discussion. Then the next day, very angry at a Union Square Rally. <– WATCH THIS ONE for some inspiration and anger. He’s great at inspiring, probably not so great at making friends.
  • Eric Schneiderman says “this is very much about the essence of the United States of America.”

Etherpad (UPDATE: is shutting down…)

UPDATE: No sooner had I posted this on my blog that Etherpad announced they are being acquired by Google. The tried and true method of eliminating small competitors shows itself again. Oh well, play around with it for now…

I just learned about Etherpad, a very awesome tool. It’s founded by some people who used to work at Google Docs and is much simpler. You write in “really real time”! It’s designed only as a collaboration tool, and highlights text based on who wrote it.

Also, it’s embeddable. Try it out below!