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 September, 2009

Machacks: of Snow Leopard frustration

Snow Leopard – more like LOLcat

It’s been a frustrating week as I have struggled with random freezes, about 2-4 a day, of my new Snow Leopard install. Has anyone else experienced this? I’m going to try a fix I’ve found that appears to have worked for some people. It’s a serious problem and the sooner Apple patches it, the happier I and others affected by it will be.

These hiccups have put me on somewhat of a personal vendetta against Snow Leopard, even though I probably appreciate and admire its features and coding philosophy more than most. It’s a revolutionary OS, but it’s still got some serious issues. For example, it can’t format new hard drives. That’s right – I got a new hard drive and it could NOT format it. Windows 7, running through *Parallels*, was necessary.

One major issue I have with Snow Leopard is Apple’s decision to change how it accounts for disk space on your hard drive. Computers measure hard disks on a base-2 numeric system. One kilobyte is 1024 bytes, one megabyte is 1024 kilobytes, and so on. So a gigabyte is not really 1 billion bytes, it is 1,073,741,824 bytes. At a certain point, hard disk manufacturers realized that if they switched to a base-10 system, they could call something that used to be 465-GB a 500-GB hard drive. This led to a bit of confusion when people actually plugged in the hard drive and looked at the space on it, but we dealt with it.

Apple knows this process is not going to change, so it has given into the hard drive manufacturers. A reasonable move, you say – and it is, kind of. But it’s like deciding that you alone are going to switch to the metric system, and by virtue of that change the rest of the world will follow. Websites, FTP servers, Windows, Linux, and every app on OS X counts the other way, and it’s provoking a whole lot of confusion. PLUS, OS X is not consistent; I have 4 gigabytes of RAM, which in Snow Leopard’s accounting should be 4.29-GB. It was one thing when hard drives had less space than they claimed to; now, we have a mixed system for describing how big files are. Improvement? Setting the stage for the future? If so, then they are more visionary than I…

In a post about this change, I found this hilarious comment:

This is OS 10.6, LOLCat edition. The reason they converted to base 10, is because the LOLCat is in ur puter, noming your bits. So by changing from base 2 to base 12 for calculation they have ensured that your computer will continue to store as much data as before since the LOLCat only noms bits at a slow and steady pace.
And, if you run low you can just re-install the OS, which restores the bits nommed by the LOLCat, which in turn starts the cycle all over again.
Windows has had this feature for years, only instead of a cute LOLCat nomming your bits, it’s Windows eating itself over time.

Nauseating…

Microsoft is hosting “Launch Parties” where you invite your closest friends over and show them how to share photos on Windows 7. The result is a horrifying monster lovechild of a MoveOn Campaign, a 1995 Powerpoint, and a Day of our Lives audition. I agree we’re annoying, but Charlie Brooker, who put up this video, I’ll stick with my cult of Mac for now.

If anybody can watch the entire thing straight through, I’ll buy you a Pepsi.

All I can say is, damn…

Well done, 172 communications students at the University of Quebec at Montreal!

Climate change lecture I found

With the UN summit on Climate Change, tcktcktck’s great coverage of the climate events happening this week in NYC, and my recent viewing of the movie Fuel, I thought this gem would be appropriate:

I haven’t downloaded it yet so I’m not positive, but it appears to be a lecture from the 2009 25C3 conference by Stefan Rahmstorf about what Science really knows and doesn’t know about climate change. I will download it tonight and am excited to view it and hear the thoughts of others who see it.

DOWNLOAD THE LECTURE HERE.

FUEL: Social Issue Documentary Lives On!

Yes, that's the director's naked body.

Yes, that's the director's naked body.

If you see anything this week, SEE THIS FILM at limited engagement in NY and LA.

I am a documentary filmmaker because I want to change the world. That declaration is noble, arrogant, or foolhardy depending on how you look at it, but it’s what gets me up each day. When I consider all of the problems on this earth – inconsistent or misguided policy, mistreatment of other humans and animals, and millions of wrongful deaths wrought by greed and callousness – I don’t see how it is realistically possible for us who are blessed with plenty not to devote our lives to helping others. Whether this aid be small and impactful or large and plodding, I’ve always seen awareness and engagement as all-important and film as a vital tool to accomplish these ends.

I was impacted heavily in college by the rise of the social interest documentary. An Inconvenient Truth seemed to herald a new age of liberalism, and documentary — truth, even — was all of a sudden sexy. The model was infinitely appealing to someone yearning for change: speak to a populace who doesn’t know how uneducated they are about an issue, send out a call for change, and before you know it Congress is considering a bill and the world is reshaped anew. Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock ran the other end of the gamut, bringing their own (however abrasive) personalities into the equation. The creativity in this new genre could be limitless! What mattered was that documentary was sexy now, and it was headed for your living room.

Working in New York, however, I quickly became disheartened. For any important issue there were multiple documentarians and multiple documentaries. Thousands of poignant films with powerful calls to action sit on DVD shelves across this city, nearly dead on arrival. A glut of poorly received films was especially tragic when they were so important and impassioned — so true.

And then there were the films that did make it. It turned out that making a doc beautiful could suck out its substance and making it like a narrative could drain any semblance of objectivity. The social issue documentary was a cliché, and a damn funny joke. I saw Cash Crop, a rambling tale of hippies enjoying weed, making money off growing it, and wishing that government and big corporations would both care more about them (not considering the fact that legalization of marijuana would put all the home growers out of business.) When the movie transitioned without comment to a village destroyed by pollution I wondered in despair if my industry’s only trick was to put a pretty face on a laundry list of complaints.

Food, Inc. was another ultimate disappointment, sweeping across a complex web of government tyranny, corporate greed, and the failing of our capitalist system only to tack on a quick message of hope that left me pretty much hopeless.

Today, I have a renewed hope in our genre and the ability of film to stand up and Do. Fuel derives its optimism from the voice of director/actor/activist Josh Tickell, who has been fighting for adoption of biofuels for over a decade with a patient confidence and true passion for life. Even as he admits that his early work was fueled by hatred toward big oil, his style of activism shares no DNA with the entitled finger-pointing you may have seen elsewhere. In the Q&A after the movie he spoke to his own transformation from anger to excitement about environmental issues, and how this shift has mirrored the environmental movement as a whole; where being an environmentalist used to mean reacting to this oil spill or that abuse, shouting at Congressmen for each abuse, it is finally becoming less reactionary and more constructive. Environmentalists are, in large part, being handed the keys to our future and asked to come up with something good – and that shift is something this film rejoices.

The movie’s core is Tickell’s personal story as his family was affected by oil pollution and he came to define his own path of activism: at one point, he drove around the country several times in a truck powered by biodiesel. The inclusion of his family and dozens of other voices paints a human picture, while his crisp narration lays out the landscape with perfect precision. But most of all, the film tells us that there is hope, there has been change, and you can and will be a part of it, says the film.

I also learned a ton. Apparently the Supercapacitor battery is the future. People interested in environmental activism can meet for green drinks, a monthly meetup active in 610 cities that can bring as many as 400 people per meetup. The war on Iraq is very expensive and if we spent even a teeny fraction of that money on renewable energy we wouldn’t have an energy problem. Algae fuel is the future; it can be grown in vats in the desert, sucks CO2 out of our environment, burns clean, and smells like vegetables! Back in the day Republicans were less responsive to the filmmakers but these days the environment is a bipartisan issue.

If you can, GO SEE THE FILM! It will stay in NYC and LA for as long as they can fill seats, and with enough critical mass this is a film that shouldn’t have much trouble doing that. So thank you for a new hope for the genre; it’s refreshing and needed. Now Josh, do you think you can make a movie about healthcare?

Where is the outrage?

I had the privelege of attending a screening yesterday of All The Presidents’ Men followed by a panel with Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein. The movie was powerful and subtle as always, and watching the three of them converse as old friends added another dimension to my enjoyment of the film.

The conversation inevitably turned to the state of journalism today in America, and their responses were twinged with regret. The film represented a high point in American journalism, said Bernstein, and possibly the last time that everything worked: A newspaper had the resources to investigate this story and did so, and when the evidence was out there the government responded appropriately; the Supreme Court, three of whom were appointed by Nixon himself, voted to force him to surrender the Watergate tapes. The most significant difference I took from the conversation was that back then, the idea that a politician was lying was downright appalling. A president had the nation’s trust, since then it has been squandered.

In the modern age, outrage is dead. Bush I lied, Clinton lied, Bush II lied, and apparently Obama lies as well. We were upset at the Lewinsky scandal, maybe, but not outraged. When President Bush and his administration fed lies to the public to support a war we were furious, but there was also a sick undercurrent of hopelessness. We knew we were being had but there was nothing we could do; it was hard to resist the idea that in the US, Power had won the ultimate battle over Truth.

This is the wellspring of dissatisfaction that Obama tapped during his campaign, following others before him. But he won’t fix these problems, because this sickness is greater than one man, as I am reminded today when I read about the horrific scale of tap water poisoning in the New York Times. Forty percent of communities violated health and safety regulations at least once, 3/5 of which were in “serious noncompliance.” And regulators pushed the problem away from them, afraid of large and threatening companies. I am reminded of this when I consider our disgustingly wrongheaded agricultural subsidies, or the fact that Dubya committed impeachable crimes daily and the press, congress, and nation rolled over and allowed it to happen.

Regulators in our country are not concerned with what they regulate – they are concerned with keeping their jobs, and the two incentives are more out of line than ever before. Let me repeat that: regulators in our country are not concerned with what they regulate. How have we let our country get to this point: where politicians, regulators, and journalists are hamstrung by a system that is not interested in values but in efficiency. Capitalism is a great framework, yes, but regulation and government are designed to inject our priorities into our economy. We have been losing these priorities in reverence to our beloved McDonald’s ideals of efficiency and expediency.

Am I the first person to bemoan moral degradation in society and the loss of values? Not at all — and as long as values are changing, someone will think they are being lost. But I do hope that one day we will return to the values of truth and honesty in spirit, and not just when others are looking. Maybe we will live to experience another time when cynicism is low and the prospect of a President lying sends actual waves of shock and not opportunistic cries of anger.

Will it happen any time soon? I know I won’t be holding my breath..

Healthcare: risk distribution, fast food, and Joe Wilson

Obamacare!

Obamacare!

Michael Pollan wrote a great op-ed on the “elephant in the room” of our food supply in the healthcare debate and the prospect that forcing insurance companies to accept those with pre-existing conditions might make them very powerful allies in the fight against obesity.


A quick glance at Joe Wilson’s Wikipedia entry reveals that “you lie! Oops, I’m sorry” is a favorite phrase of his. In response to congressman Bob Filner’s statement that the US gave nukes to Iraq in the 1980s, Wilson called him a liar and “hater of America,” for which he later apologized. Next he called Essie Mae Washington-Williams a liar when she came out in 2003 as the love child of Strom Thurmond and his black maid. He later apologized but maintained that she shouldn’t have said it because of the smear it placed on Thurman. Wow.

Again he cries “lie,” and again it’s mostly inaccurate. His frustration certainly represents the fears of millions of Conservative Americans of the disruption of the status quo, as Rush eloquently summarized, and we in favor of healthcare reform can only persist in our hope that they will be on the losing side of history. His outburst is still inexcusable, as is the bitchy video he recorded the next day, “I will not be muzzled.” The open debate and fair representation of ideas that he claims to desire is only possible with respect, or at least something closer to respect. Obama is backed into a corner and needs Republican support desperately, so he’s in a position to listen. Write an op-ed, make your own speech, but don’t do that, or pretend it was in line – it wasn’t. And it’s hard to criticize those on the left for capitalizing on your outburst – you gave them the bait! (Still, they bicker like children and it’s not conducive to debate.)


What I don’t understand about Obama’s plan is, how will it manage to spread risk across healthcare companies? If we have an open marketplace with hundreds of companies competing for the same customers, but none of them can refuse customers based on pre-existing conditions, some companies are bound to have more sick people on their rosters than others. In this economy, the single most important determinant of an insurance company’s success will be how many sick people it has, and those with too many will fail while those with not many will succeed. So while outright discrimination will be illegal, companies will use every tool they can to get more healthy people (offering incentives like free gym membership, partnering with colleges and young/healthy companies, advertising in affluent areas…)

Under that system, the companies that are successful at attracting healthier people with expensive ad campaigns and good strategy will succeed and all others will fail; I would think the natural equlibrium in that kind of economy would be a very small number (2-3) of very powerful companies–not the marketplace Obama hopes for. Any flaws in my logic?

Clarification: The above argument assumes that the plan Obama has in mind does not allow insurers to charge whatever they want based on pre-existing conditions. I don’t see Obama signing a bill that allows insurers to charge 3x higher premiums for obesity, 5x for Diabetes, and 20x for Cancer. If that somehow became the system passed, though, this wouldn’t be an issue.

3D technologies: of polarized light and color shifts…

Dolby3Dglasses-550x290

For the optics nerds out there:

The upcoming release of Avatar got me researching the competing 3D technologies currently in use to project 3D films. I was so impressed with the quality and color of Coraline, and now I see why – this stuff’s advanced! Come and follow me on a guided tour through Wikipedia…

The oldest and most robust 3D images were created using two different colors – red and blue, for example. With red- and blue-filtered 3D glasses, a different image could be sent to each eye. This was adapted to color images with very minimal success, and just isn’t a very beautiful way to watch movies.

The next leap involved using polarized light. A polarizing filter takes a standard light wave, which is oscillating at all angles as it travels to the eye, and filters it so it is either horizontal or vertical. A longer explanation can be found here. This technique is susceptible to all sorts of odd effects if the viewer’s head tilts to one side.

Now there are two systems: RealD Cinema, and Dolby 3D made by Dolby, who seems to remain in the business of patenting awesomeness. RealD circularly polarizes the light, which I didn’t know was even possible and is a very robust means of projection. The downside of the method is that it requires a special silver screen to display images; the upside is its glasses are very cheap.

Dolby 3D’s approach appears to be even more sophisticated. It splits the spectrum to yield two slightly off-color blues, two slightly off-color reds, and two slightly off-color greens. Through very sophisticated ($50!) glasses, it sends each of those colors to different eyes.

The battle between these different projection technologies and the difficulties in adopting 3D altogether are well-explained by David Bordwell in a recent post.

Barney Frank and Holocaust Denial

A diamond to Barney:

A coal to the Harvard Crimson. God damn…that’s disgraceful to publish an ad in favor of Holocaust Denial.

And I missed this one:

KerrangYou know the “Kerrang!” of a guitar chord that launches “A Hard Day’s Night”? Turns out it was a mystery that needed solving. Writes Eliot Van Buskirk, “Guitarists have puzzled over the riddle of how this chord is played for decades because it contains a note that would be impossible for the Beatles’ two guitarists and bassist to play in one take, and experts have concluded […]

Interview with the Rhode Island Film Festival!

The Rhode Island Film Festival posted an interview I gave about my film. It’s a preview of the plot, explained in an (endearingly?) rambling fashion. What happened to all the lessons I learned from my Speech and Debate teacher??

It’s filmed by Kieran Delaney, who I got to know that day and is an excellent cinematographer. Right now he’s working on a music documentary – you can check out the beginnings of it.

Take a look: