Director of narrative, commercial, and virtual reality

Film Portfolio

Project Greenlight finalist | Short about sex, death, existence, time

Lily in the Grinder

Shabbat Dinner

Comedy short about coming out | Featured in 55+ festivals

Search is Back

Featured on TechCrunch | 7k users per day

Global event handing out nametags on first Sat in June

Nametag Day

Uber Forecast

Tracking Uber's surge pricing to guess what the weather might be

Archive for March, 2009

Want some good reading? Try your browser history.

People have different ways of browsing. Some go on a completely linear path, some keep a few linear paths. I tend to have 10-20 windows open and jump around as haphazardly as a gopher on a hot plate. Your internet usage patterns says a lot about your attention, your productivity, and where your mind has been going.

I’ve taken to popping open my browser history whenever I have the question “man, how did I spend the past two hours and not get anything done?” I find, in surprise, pages I don’t even remember visiting. Reading a recap is a lot more valuable than experiencing it because it gives you some perspective on how you move around the web. Noticing how often 40 pages of Facebook photos pop up in the middle of research is quite instructive. Here’s mine, during the job search (compressed):

  • Wikipedia – Dustin Diamond – a fascinating read, no joke.
  • Wikipedia – Lark Voorhies – less so
  • Yelp – cafes on the upper west side – 5 pages
  • Gmail
  • International Center for Transitional Justice – 5 pages
  • Curious Pictures – 3 pages
  • High schools in the Bronx – 30 pages
  • MoMA film calendar – 15 pages
  • Filmaid International – 4 pages
  • Facebook – 7 pages
  • My blog post
  • Back to Facebook
  • Back to blog post

What’s your broswer history for the past hour?

46 hours in Manhattan

Scorecard: 40 emails sent, 4 meetings, 2 job offers, 4 friends visited, 1 bagel, 0 black-and-whites.

Fun times on public transportation! (in Prague not NYC)

Fun times on public transportation! (in Prague not NYC)

I blog this from the New York Public Library in the reading room, which showcases Manhattan’s special brand of quiet – a dull, echoey humm of footsteps, rustling, and whispering that is akin to rock concert played on tinny iPod headphones.

It’s been three days since I touched down and 46 hours since I entered Manhattan, and I’m in love with this city. It’s got a magical thrusting energy and that feeling I relish, that you could round the corner and bump into anyone – that I’ve passed more people and more life stories in the past three days than I have in the previous three months! Without even trying I’m walking 4 miles every day and seeing the sights of the city. My relationship with it is not one of wonder, but one of satisfaction – I’ve seen all the touristy sights before and I just want to be living in the city. A few experiences:

  • The Subway is definitely the most fun part of the city. One man entered and announced his tattoo services, handing out cards to his tattoo parlor. And odd way to advertise, I’d think. Another woman was really, really good – she’d been featured in a bunch of magazines on Subway performers and wasn’t playing to collect donations but to add to her email list and sell CDs.
  • One sad aspect of this city is the sight of poverty everywhere. It’s not like it was 15 years ago, but beggars and homeless people are on the sides of the streets, and getting through your day demands a certain desensitization. It’s hard to judge whether a person is really deserving of your money and I can’t help but say, “well I’m homeless and unemployed too!!” But it’s in a different way.
  • I forgot that cold is a function of clothing. I feel fine in 45-degree weather with a sport jacket and a scarf. I had forgotten that cold doesn’t have to be unpleasant.
  • Not having a car is awesome. LA is so isolated that way!
  • I am not finding the myth that New Yorkers are unfriendly true at all. I’ve met some of the friendliest people on the street and in the subways.
  • That being said, this one woman asked me to call her cell phone to help her find it and seemed astounded when I agreed to do so. She thanked me profusely and made me let her kiss me on the cheek. Then, ten minutes later she called me and rudely demanded to know why I had called her. I forgot who it was and mentioned that I was calling a lot of people looking for jobs and perhaps she was one of those. She rudely said “nobody would recommend me for something like that” and hung up in a huff. It was pretty funny.

My hosts are great – Jordan, Sam, and Maddie have graciously allowed me to crash on their couch for a few weeks, so I am the lump on the floor of their living room covered in a blanket that kind of rolls around while they eat cereal in the morning. We’ve been having a good time cooking meals, playing Wii, and chilling on their roof drinking beer. After getting up and closing up the couch, I take a shower (as much to unwrinkle my shirt of the day as to get clean) and head to meetings.

Thanks to previous efforts, I had a few meetings set up with people I knew in the city. Interestingly enough, none of those have led to any jobs yet. The two part-time jobs that I have found have been by replying to a Craigslist posting. The first is with The Edge With Jake, a small scrappy production making a TV show that is syndicated late-night on ABC! It’s a two-month stint with an awesome team and sweet corporate sponsors (we are filming a Denny’s party and get free Fuze!) and a great host. Jake has been doing the show on Public Access since he was 15 and is now 23 and just got the ABC deal last season. Super low budget means super fun (and that I don’t get paid.) The second job is as a canvasser for the Human Rights Campaign, approaching people on the street and asking them to support legislation for gay rights. They are currently trying to add sexual orientation to the federal hate crime legislation (ten full years after Matthew Shepherd, damn you Bush.) It pays but not well, so I have to do some serious contemplation about how to get some mulah for an apartment.

Alright, until next time! If anyone is swinging by the city, be sure to give me a ring!

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Who knew zip codes could be this fun?

Man, the postal system is suh-weet! You’ll be thinking that too after checking out this map! Click on the map and type in a zip code, and as you enter more digits it will highlight all the zip codes that begin with the numbers you typed. It’s a lot of fun!

For more country-quantizing fun, check out the numbering system for the US Interstate Highway System. If you’ve never thought about how the highways are numbered, it should all make sense now. And it’s far more interesting than the Department of Transportation’s super lame attempt at making the Interstates seem cool!

God bless!

From Overheard in New York:

Hobo: Listen, man, I’m homeless. Now, I’m not askin’ for money or nothin’, but…
Extremely well-dressed young man: Hey, me too!
Hobo: What?
Extremely well-dressed young man: Yep! Just moved here from Boston, couch surfing in Tribeca! I feel ya, buddy. God bless!

–42nd & 8th

Minneapolis!

Apologies for the dearth of postings..I’ve been gearing up to fly, flying, and sitting in Minneapolis, sick. I’m here for a week visiting inlaws and friends. The three cats at my aunt’s place, lack of sleep this week, caffeine withdrawal (that I have postponed to a later date) and cold weather certainly contribute to the general feeling of malaise. But a few great stories:

  • We were all out for St. Patrick’s Day when I dialed a few friends around 11pm, mostly the ones I’ll be seeing this week. Nobody picked up. I crowed “I should stay in Los Angeles, all my other friends are LAME! Who is asleep at 2am on St. Patrick’s Day?!” Everyone agreed noisily – we were out of the bar by midnight and certainly passed out a half hour later.
  • The schedule at my grandmother’s retirement home.

    Note the super early events, including a noon massage beginning promptly at 10am, and the lack of events from 2:30 – 7:30. There’s nothing within a mile so I don’t know what other store people would use..

The Tyranny of Clothing

My first round of clothing to pack, some will not make it.

My first round of clothing to pack. Some will not make it.

In planning the move to New York City, I’ve thought a lot about clothing. What we wear in Los Angeles (or at Brown) is quite different than what is worn in New York. Here, people at my office worked in t-shirts and jeans. In New York, a button-down shirt is common for a trip to the grocery store. So I’ve been planning what clothes to buy and wear, and testing combinations out while I’m here.

But it’s all a trap, a terrible trap, and I’ll tell you why.

My mother has been pushing me to buy more clothing – “get some nice shirts for an interview, ask the hip-looking people at Bloomingdales what to get!” First of all, there are no hip people at Bloomingdales. Second, I already own more than enough shirts. But after repeated insistence from my mom and the fear that maybe, perhaps, I don’t have nearly enough clothes to be a good enough human being, I gave in and went shopping.

When I swiped the credit card for some monstrous amount, I felt a lead weight in my stomach. No utility to these clothes, I thought. But more clothes in the collection, more choices. It just felt wrong, and later I saw why. I went to LACMA with Sinan and Pauline, who were still in town visiting LA. In my sport jacket, button-down shirt, I felt snazzy but it didn’t feel like me. I took off the sport jacket out of self-consciousness.

There is a hill at LACMA that I love to roll down – in a city like Los Angeles, there are few parks, and precious few nice grassy hills. In fact, this is the only such hill I can think of. Every time I go there, I take my friends and roll down it at least twice–and right then, I really needed a roll. “But you can’t, you’ll ruin your shirt,” a voice in my head said, quite proud of my fancy clothes.

No! That thought is so wrong and unholy. There is something so disgusting about shirts that can’t be rolled in, heels that can’t be run in, shirts that are tight and don’t let us dance. Beyond a certain point, clothes and possessions define us by constricting our world, and it’s a supremely delicate balance to deal with our things in a healthy manner.

Packing my clothes, I’ve once again come up against the terrible disconnect between the stuff I need to survive and the stuff I own. I’m a hypocrite because I pack things I don’t want to pack, or believe I need, and today I will try to avoid that trap.

A puzzle for you…

http://xkcd.com/55/

http://xkcd.com/55/

This may have (probably has) been solved in elaborate detail in other texts, but I haven’t heard of them and maybe someone can enlighten me.

I was thinking about how different peoples’ tastes were in sexual types, and I began to wonder if there was a formula to calculate the ideal pairings for everyone in this world. It would have application to many other types of problems, which is why I’m sure there’s been some work done on it.

Take everyone in this world aged 18-40. Ignore their socioeconomic statuses, location, etc. – just imagine them in a white box. Run simulated pairings with every single combination, and for each person develop a ranking of every other person in the order they would like to be a couple. That’s a thought experiment, but it develops a ranked listing for every person on earth.

The question: what is the pairing that gives the maximum utility of happiness to the world? This means that overall, everyone gets the highest-ranked choice possible.

It’s worth noting that many people’s lists would be similar. Beautiful people with high emotional intelligence would be on top, and unattractive people with poor attitudes on the bottom. There would be WIDE variation, though – people have vastly different tastes and personalities. But would the formula have to account for whether you could even get persons 1-1000 on your list, or would that happen automatically as the higher-up people “reject” you? It’s not the formula’s fault if Angelina Jolie gets person #1 on her list but somebody else gets person #1000.

Another factor that would be important is matching a couple’s happiness levels, which might take care of the above problem. If one person in the couple gets their #1 choice and the other gets their #20,000 choice, that is unacceptable. They will divorce, and there’s no reason to put them together.

My rough thinking is this: run a simulation of ever possible combination. For each of those simulations, measure the ranking of their spouse (call it average individual unhappiness), and measure the average of the differences between those rankings within couples (call it average couple unhappiness.)

Then, determine what level of couple unhappiness will cause actual tension and a divorce (call it the critical threshold of couple unhappiness). Find the people who tend to be unhappy in most of the scenarios (let’s say 2/3 of the scenarios) and ignore them for now. We’re probably not going to make them happy and shouldn’t waste our energy trying. Now, look at every scenario that puts 90% of the people remaining above the critical threshold of couple unhappiness.

We have a list of acceptable scenarios. Now bring back in those people we have previously excluded and pick the scenario with the highest average individual happiness. Easy, simple Excel work!! I think that with a sample size of 3bil, it should take about 4.5×1019, or 45 quintillion calculations. Assuming each of those calculations is between 50-100 instructions (a high assumption), this would take the world’s fastest supercomputers between 87 and 520 days. So it’s doable.

What do you think?

An ode to Manhattan

Manhattan

“In my dreams, we fly away from all the palm trees of this place […] to a city that never sleeps.”
– Sayanything, Dreaming of Manhattan (the drummer went to elementary school with me — crazy)

As I contemplate the move to New York City my excitement only grows. I’ve been thinking about the city I am leaving behind and the city I am entering — thinking all the more about it because of how uncertain my future there is.

I thought that I’d reflect on my thoughts about New York now, while they are innocent and stupid, before they are tempered by any sort of reality of living in the city. I am sure the beginning will be a beautiful whirlwind, and the honeymoon will last until some particular moment when I arrive back at my apartment at 5am, having been robbed on the subway and unable to let myself in, with someone’s vomit or some dirt sloshed onto my new interview slacks, when I will curse the day I decided to move. And then the moment will pass and I will be a citizen of the city.

I have seen it happen time and time again with visitors to Los Angeles. When my friend Abra moved here, she would tell me excitedly of lovely cafes and sunny beach weather. I wondered why she didn’t seem to notice the traffic, or the congestion and disgusting displays of wealth. Did it take a long time to get there, I would ask, wondering if she saw the LA that I saw. And then one day it took her 1.5 hours to return from a cafe–and the honeymoon was over.

But the honeymoon is the best part. And right now, my Manhattan is bright and always moving. A playland for the people, safe and enthralling in every moment–around every corner waits another person and another adventure. Full of people searching, people lost, and things to be found. Life everywhere — far too many people and buildings for this city to lack anything. Real, egalitarian, squashing class difference to the beat of shoes on pavement. Real – for all its makeup and pretension it is there in the flesh. Its energy beats a creative pulse – every thought, word, and action has more passion because it is in New York. It is not a city that pretends.

Superficial. Style-obsessed, judgmental. Squalor mixed with riches but in the end it’s all squalor, and it’s all rich. Hustling. Every moment of every day, hustling. People so much more comfortable in their own skins than I am yet, exuding confidence. Barely scraping by on ramen then blowing $60 on a night out because it just. feels. right. Flings, secret encounters, chance meetings, a thousand little corners to be with the people I love.

What I hear is cold and unfeeling, lonely and inhuman. How? How? I take that as a challenge.

Ask me again in six months…

Saint Patrick’s Day is my last night in Los Angeles. We’ll be at Snakepit on Melrose from 8ish on if you can make it.

A beautiful day

It really is. Five days until I leave for Minneapolis, and eleven until I touch down in New York. I’ve got people to meet with, friends to see, on both coasts and in between, and I’m taking every quiet pause I can to catch a breath before jumping into this whirlwind. I feel like Bastian from the Neverending Story, standing on the brink of a waterfall and jumping into it – I don’t know what I might find at the bottom, but what a ride it’s going to be!

I’ve been reflecting on the changes afoot in this world, and how grateful I am that it has miraculously become the world I was hoping for. Quicker and faster-paced, more nimble. For the first time the United States feels like an world-aware country and Los Angeles feels like an international city. True democracy comes closer and closer (that might be a delusion, it also feels as far away as it ever was) and we have more connection that we ever have had before (fake, non-real connection – but some of it is real and all of it is magic!) There are signs that we are starting to care more about other people, other countries, the environmental consequences of what we do. Gay rights is almost an anachronism in a few small bubbles of this country, with reason to believe those bubbles are expanding.

Economic times are tough, but our emotional IQs have never been higher. Everyone is scrambling. Everyone is wearing multiple hats and being as versatile as they can–which is the mode of operation that makes me the happiest. Nobody is safe, and we are reminded of our own humanity.

And Barack Obama. Mr., Senator, President, Chief Executive of All That is Right Again Obama.

I wonder if every generation gets this feeling in their mid-twenties?