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 May, 2009

Okay fine, I love Twitter. There, I said it.

Wearing my twitter shirt.

Wearing my twitter shirt.

As the token blogger/iPhoner/techno-geek of my friends, I am often asked, “what do you think of Twitter?” The question is usually posed with a sideways glance and a look of utter confusion: neither my friends nor I know what to think of it. My answer always begins, “I’ve learned not to judge new technology but just to accept it, but I don’t know what the point is.” But today, I have come around and can say it: I love Twitter.

First, the gigantic, enormous, 1000-lb caveat: 140 characters is just too little on which to found an information economy. It’s just enough to pop in a unilateral statement or partisan opinion of the kind that dumbs down discourse. “Yeah Steelers!” or “Congress disagrees on transportation bill” are two examples.

In my mind, Twitter is the gigantic success it is due to a weakness in our search and blogging tools. Twitter provides an immediate way to post content that requires very little tech literacy, and a way to search and handle that content all at once. If blog software were easier to use, and every blog accessible up to the minute–with software that intelligently groups blog posts and maps them by concept, date, time, etc–we would not see such a flood to Twitter. Sites like Technorati attempt to integrate the blogosphere, but I’ve found them sorely lacking. Sites like tumblr try to make blogging easier, but why can’t every blogging site be this? What we need is a way to truly engage blogs with each other. And what would that look like? Basically a Twitter, but with pictures, videos, essays, news items…the content of the world coming at you at lightning speed.

Instead we get 140 characters and tinyurl links. And Twitter’s killer app, with which I have finally fallen in love. search.twitter.com – a perfect way to tap into the hive mind and see who won a race, what people thought of an advertisement, where parties and events are being held.

Some examples: a few weeks ago, the Empire State Building was blue and white. Neither Jordan nor I could think of what Jewish holiday it was, so we called Suza – no Jewish holiday. On my iPhone I searched for “empire state blue white,” and within seconds learned it was for Columbia graduation. Yesterday, after the upholding of Proposition 8, I searched for “prop 8 nyc” and found a number of tweets with the time and location of the protest. Twitter asks “what are you doing right now” to its users, and then I get to ask the question to all of New York City.

So thank you Twitter for providing a useful service. I see your contribution as a proposition and a beta, but not as a final draft. Let’s twitterize the rest of the web and open the free content to be accessible, and see where this wild ride goes next.

Disappointed but not discouraged

from HuffPost

from HuffPost

I am disappointed, but I have hope. In a 6-1 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the discriminatory Proposition 8 but affirmed the legality of same-sex marriages performed before its passing. They claimed that because same-sex couples have all the same rights but without the name ‘marriage,’ the term itself is not sacrosanct. The ruling was expected based on the court’s comments during oral arguments.

Coverage on the supreme court decision is everywhere (if you need a place to start you can look here and here.) While there is much to be sad about today, it’s not the same bleak world in which Prop 8 was passed. Even with 54% of the country against same-sex marriage, it’s legal in five states and on the table in many more including New York and New Jersey. There is hope, and change is coming fast.

So thanks for nothing, CA Supreme Court. You were wrong from a legal and moral standpoint, but let’s hope the winds of change continue to blow past you.

The big one is coming?

faultline

Fault Line!

On May 17 at 8:39pm, a magnitude 4.7 earthquake hit Los Angeles, centered over the airport. Two days later, a 4.0 earthquake hit the same location. Various small shocks occur constantly in the area, but these two were big enough to be felt, and eerily close to one another.

Living in California comes with a certain baseline of anxiety. I experienced the 1994 Northridge Quake, which was of magnitude 6.7 and killed 72 people, causing $20 billion in damage. (earthquake magnitudes are logarithmic – one extra point represents 30x more power.) From my house 13 miles away it felt like a gentle rocking and did very minor damage, but it was ruinous to other areas.

As a local, I stopped worrying long ago. There is no way to control quakes, and after not dying for a few years we tend to forget about the problem. There are many dangers to be afraid of but worrying constantly is foolish – but perhaps we are foolish not to take some consideration of the risks.

California straddles two continental plates, the Pacific and North American. The western half of the state is moving Northwest at a rate of two inches per year, and will theoretically be a part of Alaska in a million years. Fears of the “big one,” then, describe two quakes: a large one that is likely to occur soon, and a gigantic one far in the future that will finally separate the West from the mainland. A sobering thought: the USGS estimates that a magnitude 6.7 quake has a 99.7% chance of striking California in the next 30 years. When or where, however, is a mystery.

So should Californians be worried? In the short term, probably not. A very smart guy says that clusters of earthquakes occur all the time and help to relieve tension; more worrisome is a period of no earthquake activity. In the long term there will be disaster, but your chances of injury or major property loss our still small. There are dangers lurking in every city, and I still say that living in the beautiful state of California is more than worth the risk.

Want another helping of fear? Check out the five largest California earthquakes.

Waiting for justice

Tomorrow morning at 10am, the California Supreme Court will announce its ruling on Proposition 8. We’ve been waiting since the November election for a verdict on the constitutionality of this ballot measure: can the California population vote on a measure that restricts a preexisting right of other citizens? Also, what will be the legal status of those married in California before the ballot measure was passed?

For an in-depth case against prop 8, you can of course read wikipedia, your friendly NPOV news source.

Also please take a look at the excellent publicity campaign Get to Know Us First:

The campaign is notable for a few reasons. It was spawned by a man who was upset with the Proposition 8 campaign and its refusal to use images of actual gay and lesbian couples (due to a misguided fear of offending voters), and who had the desire to put those images on television. With a few skilled friends and some spare time, he created six 30-second PSAs, put them online, and started an online campaign to raise money and put them on television. This new media model for activism is an awesome example of how the internet is democratizing older forms of media – the market segmentation of cable makes it ideal to target a grassroots political message on a budget. (For another organization doing similar things, check out saysme.tv.

What would you do?

from kelvin_luffs

from kelvin_luffs

If somebody gave you $10,000 right now for a project, what would it be? How about one million dollars? Or the resources of a national ad campaign?

Your answer reveals what you want for the world and yourself. If you don’t have an answer, consider what you most want to accomplish right now and throughout your life. If asked now, I would produce films that I have written – a short with the $10,000 and a feature with the one million.

More than a simple thought experiment, the question gets at a key maxim in life: while being at the right place at the right time is how most people achieve success, it is very important to be prepared. Not that you will necessarily do this, even if you did have the money, but an awareness of what you want to accomplish can inform your everyday actions. So whether it is a project in the pipeline or a greater dream, what would you do?

And once you have a $10,000 project in mind, it begs the question: what’s stopping you from raising the money and doing it?

Check out Wokai, a microfinance company

Microfinance is giving small loans to people in the developing world. For example, a loan for a sewing machine or a computer can help spawn an entire business. It’s a great way to help out entrepreneurs succeed in these areas. My friend Meghan Gill is working with Wokai, an organization that does this in China. Wokai is Chinese for “I start,” and is a nonprofit group committed to helping impoverished Chinese people help themselves.

If you’re interested, take a look at their materials below. They are having a launch party next Wednesday in New York – I’ll be there and you should come too! Information from Meghan below:

What is Wokai?

Wokai delivers an internet microfinance platform that allows individuals to provide Chinese microentrepreneurs with loan capital.  Our organization acts as an intermediary in this process, transferring funds from contributors abroad to microentrepreneurs in China through our field partners.

Who does Wokai support?

A typical Wokai microentrepeneur is a female rural inhabitant, living on less than $1/day.  Her microfinance loan, ranging from $150-$300 dollars, provides her with the capital to start a small business.  Her business varies by location, raising sheep in a rural grassland or operating a small fruit stand in a city center.

With her income, she accumulates savings, which allows her to allocate money towards long-term investments like education and health. By the end of her loan cycle, she has experienced increased financial independence, bolstered self-confidence, and a strengthened sense of community.

Learn more and contribute today at http://www.wokai.org.

While I wholeheartedly support microfinance efforts that are nonprofit in nature, I am wary of larger-scale, for-profit initiatives. When large organizations interface with impoverished to tap into the long tail of the lending market, there is tremendous potential for abuse. While I respect the view of some that greater globalization and more money in an economy is never a bad thing, I fear for globalization, and what happens when giant companies with immense resources see third-world countries only as more customers for their products. It’s so important to preserve long-term national interests and ensure that national entrepreneurship is allowed to compete with larger organizations. So great job, Wokai, for empowering the disempowered!

On Food Stamps: Julie's Great Experiment

Resources and barriers in the quest for a healthful, sustainable, and affordable diet.

Resources and barriers in the quest for a healthful, sustainable, and affordable diet.

Could you survive on $35 of food per week? That’s the typical budget of a person on food stamps, and eating within it requires discipline, creativity, and an awareness of the options available.

My friend Julie Flynn has put herself to the test for an entire month, eating vegan meals for $35 per week, as healthily as she can. Her thought-provoking documentation on the experiment thus far gives experiences, tips, and recipes. She’s already had some challenges, like a bottle of spilled milk (yes, there’s use crying), spoiled fruits, and an impulse $12 grilled cheese. All in all, though, she’s showing how possible, albeit difficult, the task is.

Read her blog or participate and do the challenge yourself!

From Julie:

I am doing this because I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take this anymore.

I don’t know how to fix the food problem in America, but I know that most low and middle-income people in this country don’t seem to have access to food that is healthy for them and healthy for the environment. I don’t know what to do about the fact that most of our food is unfit to eat, but I know I am mad about it, and that this is where I am going to start.

I am doing this because someone needs to draw more attention to the fact that the lack of access to quality food in this country is becoming a MAJOR public health crisis.

This Blog is about resources and barriers in the quest for a healthy but affordable diet.

By reading this Blog and increasing your awareness of the issues it tackles, OR by living on a small food budget yourself and seeking out cheap, healthy options, you can help others in your community in a major way.

Join me in conducting this valuable research by following my Blog, passing it on to friend, or by trying this experiment out yourself. Record your experience so that others can benefit from your findings.

I think we can shake things up for the better… but, I need your help!

Increasing the dialogue about this crisis is imperative, and the best way to mobilize to action. So thank you, Julie, for doing just that!

The challenge is modeled after the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge, which challenges congressmen to do the same. It’s a fascinating read.

Tribeca Part 2: Two films to check out

As part of my Tribeca experience I saw two great films, which I highly recommend.

The Playground Project

Playground

Playground

Playground is a fascinating film about child sex trafficking, in the United States. Yes, it’s bigger here than in almost any other country and it’s time we looked critically at this issue. Child sex predators operate stealthily and quickly, and their victims are affected for life. Playground tells the story in a compelling and subtle manner without leaving out any details. This is an important film.

The film does not give much in the way of hopefulness, and I asked its director Libby Spears whether she was hopeful. She replied that there is so little we can do to make a real dent in this multimillion-dollar industry, but one thing we can do is teach young boys respect for women (and men,) and delayed gratification. An open dialogue about sex instead of this puritanical shame-faced mumbo-jumbo we currently practice would go a long way towards fixing this problem.

The film will screen in Los Angeles in June; it’s website is here.

Outrage

Outrage

Outrage

When you think of gay politicians, you probably think of Barney Frank and James McGreevey. How about Larry Craig? Or Charlie Crist, or a few dozen more politicians who have spent their lives forcing that closet door to remain shut. The film chronicles Michael Rogers of blogactive.com’s quest to out gay republicans who have a consistent anti-gay voting record. Your stance on outing will affect how you perceive the film, but in his mind it is justified because these politicans’ votes were hurting the gay community. I tend to agree.

To paraphrase our good buddy Harvey Milk, if everyone would just come out of the closet this whole gay rights thing wouldn’t be an issue, because we would see who we were voting against. Grow some balls, America!

Voting still open for Massify – please help out!

Hey all,

They’ve pulled a switcheroo and kept voting open. I could really use your help in voting for my film. Just go to the website, log on, and click the star rating. More comments would be very much appreciated as well!

http://www.massify.com/partnerships/killerfilms/000/concept/entry/internetconnection

Thanks,

Michael

Diary of a Caffeine Addict

TALL

TALL

I woke up this morning on five hours of sleep. The alarm ringtone, “Sea and Sand,” was chosen to provide soothing wakefulness but produced neither. I timed myself to allow for one snooze – ten minutes for a biochemical realization that sleep time was over. I hit the snooze again – that was unplanned.

Turning on the lights and rubbing my eyes, I see their burning redness in the mirror. Three rounds of eyedrops later, the whites of my eyes are finally white. Putting on clothes is like assembling a logic puzzle and walking up the stairs is like ascending a mountain. My body has begun supressing exhaustion, but it will need a little help.

As I approach the starbucks my pace quickens, and the atmosphere of the place would be enough to give me a smile, if smiling were possible at this moment. I buy a grande coffee and race to the subway – it’s black but I am unfazed, and it’s too late to go back and change that.

As I sit on the subway car guzzling my coffee, the knot in the pit of my stomach begins to fade. I feel a warmth through my body and superflous movements are now possible. Slowly I feel human again. Then, 40 minutes into my trip, a broad smile is painted on my face. What a wonderful world this is, I know instinctively. And I am high.

It’s time to admit something: I am a caffeine addict, and you might be too.

This current addiction started when I moved to New York. Living out of a suitcase and on a couch, having meetings all over the city, and needing an office, Starbucks called out to me. With her free wireless Internet (just buy a coffee!), contrnplative atmosphere, and multiple locations per city block, I was seduced. A daily coffee became routine and long hours cemented the habit. I’ve become addicted before, and when it happens it takes a good amount of concerted mental energy, and about three full weeks, until I am feeling 100%. But it’s worth the pain, and natural energy feels so much more real and enjoyable.

Today was an extreme case as I am normailly not this sleep deprived and dependant on caffeine. The cup doesn’t always start the day, but it comes at some point. And as much as we don’t like to admit this, if we drink a cup a day then we are addicted.

There is research that suggests (link) that caffeine has health benefits, but I say it has major health and lifestyle consequences. One danger of the drug is it’s powerul effect on mood. When I am addicted to caffeine, my happiness is affected by the drug. A caffeine need makes me upset and irritable, and a caffeine high makes me calm and pleasant. How is it possible to better know myself and grow emotionally when I have access to such a powerful mood altering drug? It is quite difficult, and I dislike that it interferes with the natural expression of emotion.

The second danger is that it allows us to overextend our body’s abilites. Like a painkiller that allows us to use a sprained ankle, a drug that tricks us into thinking we are rested when our body needs sleep is a harmful substance. The knowledge that we can use the drug tomorrow brings bad decisions and poor planning. When I am addicted, I inevitably sleep less.

The third danger is the fact of being addicted. The proliferation of Starbuckses, energy drinks, sodas and even “waters” with caffeine rests on millions of people who must have their next fix. Quitting is difficult and the effects of withdrawal are compounded by the monstrous sleep deficit that comes with it.

So quit. I’m doing it!

Enough is enough. It’s time to end this dependence. I will stop cold-turkey, having a cup of tea if needed to ease withdrawal symptoms; the main ingredient in feeling better is sleep. It usually takes me a few weeks before my energy is fully restored, and when it is, I feel better than even on the greatest caffeine high.

I know my relationship with caffeine is more intense than most peoples’ because I have a rather addictive personality. What has been your experience with coffee?