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, 2010

Times I Notice

There are a number of times of day I always notice. It seems I see them on my clock more than other times, but that must just be attention bias:

9:11 (morning and night) – for obvious reasons
11:11 (morning) – make a wish!
12:34
13:37 – leet
22:22

Which ones do you notice?

How about a reading list?

It has been a thrilling whirlwind. I’m in Boca Raton with my family for Passover to relax, and the last thing I want to do is spend the time on the computer. But knowing that you dear readers sit and wait with bated breath for my next blog post, I’m whipping up something. Instead of linking to things that I’ve read as I usually do, I will link to things I am planning on reading when I have the time, that are sitting in my bag or my browser window. Keeping an exciting to-read list is essential as it gives me something to look forward to, and I post it in the hopes that you will read some of it and we can discuss!

  • The book Death and Life of Great American Cities, which I am halfway though. Jane Jacobs was an academic celebrity in the 70s, and her criticism of what makes cities livable and unlivable is still relevant today.
  • The Upanishads, a classic book of Indian spirituality. Thanks for the suggestion Aartik!
  • I was asking a lot of questions about the three dimensions–specifically, where are the three dimensions? I get the usefulness of the labeling convention, but I wonder if it’s just a mathematical construct and unrelated to the actual structure of the universe. I don’t think any physicist would say there is some universal xyz axis just chilling there. So my question is, how has this labeling construct seeped into and limited our understanding of the real world, and are there alternate ways to quantify space? So I’m going to read about Minkowski space and continue this fruitless line of Google searches.
  • My cousin copied me on a debate he had about Free Will. My ideas about this are pretty fixed, but I do think it’s a cool contradiction that we can *not* believe in free will but at the same time experience the world as if we have freedom. I think it’s a similar thing as us believing we are part of a computer simulation (why not?) but not being able to really feel this – we cannot experience something that is greater than ourselves in this way. So I’m reading Wikipedia for Free Will, Neuroscience of Free Will, and Compatibilism and Incompatibilism.
  • I’d like to watch some of the top 10 Film Courage interviews, including #5 with Ted Hope
  • Speaking of Ted, I want to read 2 (one two) blog posts of his that I have been saving for later.
  • We’re planning on watching Lust, Caution tonight, which was called one of Ang Lee’s most ambitious works.

I guess I cheated with the videos. Oh well.

On technology regressing humanity?

With themes like “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” firmly in our cultural discourse, most of us who study technology see it as an advancement in human progress at the expense of individual human ability. I tend to see the ability to look up information any time as a deterrent to learning, and the ability to message anyone any time a distraction from more intimate forms of social interaction.

My good friend Mike Field, a Kurtzweilian and eternal optimist, disagrees. In his view, these traits that we are “losing” are innately desirable; therefore, we will make progress toward preserving them. If they appear to be disappearing it is only because technology has yet to progress further and bring them back. In the future, he says, we will see technology that is more integrated into our life. If our brain can download all of Wikipedia and access it in nanoseconds, we no longer have a jarring disconnect between our lack of knowledge and the internet’s plethora. If emails could be sent with a quick thought, they would be no more distracting than the current mess of thoughts in our brain.

Consider that what is most distracting about an iPhone is the 45 seconds spent taking it out of your pocket, searching for the information you need, and processing it. If that were reduced to a quick nanosecond, it would be very hard for me to conclude that Google was making anyone stupider.

What do you think? What other (scary?) prospects does this open up? Is the singularity near?

A poem

I no longer believe in hyperlinks.

Portal through which to view our world of the day: Wingdings

Not hearting NYC..

Human society is great – we can create controversy out of anything! For the font nerds among us, remember this debacle from the ’90s?

From the Wikipedia entry on Wingdings:

Wingdings has a history of controversy. In 1992, only days after the release of Windows 3.1, it was discovered that the character sequence “NYC” in Wingdings was rendered as a skull and crossbones symbol, Star of David, and thumbs up gesture. This could be interpreted as a message of approval of killing Jews, especially those from New York City. Microsoft strongly denied this was intentional, and insisted that the final arrangement of the glyphs in the font was largely random. (The character sequence “NYC” in the later-released Webdings font, in turn, is rendered as eye, heart, and city skyline, which could be interpreted as “I Love New York“. Microsoft has stated that this is intentional.)[2]

Obama = Change?

Obama = Change

I bought this shirt in a moment of unbridled idealism during the 2008 elections. (The = is the symbol for marriage equality.) Now the shirt stays in the closet like the gays in the military.

The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto

While listening to WNYC I heard an interview with Atul Gawande about his book “The Checklist Manifesto.” It’s premise is simple: checklists force doctors to double-check their work, saving lives.

What was very interesting was his discussion about the tremendous resistance he has encountered from experts, claiming that the idea demeans their expertise. He said that in surveys, many experts claimed they would not use it themselves at the same time as stating that they would want a doctor to use a checklist when operating on them.  He then makes a great point. Experts (all of us, really) are aware of their own fallibility but also scoff at the idea of a checklist. But if we were to let go of our need to be perfect and rather embrace and work with our fallibility, we could do a better job..how about that proposition?

Check out his interview with Jon Stewart, and buy the book here.

A note about Amazon links on this blog: clicking through from my blog and buying a book gives me a 10% kickback. It’s pretty sweet. I never would include even a single unnecessary link because of this, and really it’s not a large enough sum to make a difference at this point. Still, if you’re going to buy the book anyway, you might as well also buy this starving artist a cup of coffee!

Apple: a lesson in irony

Remember this? Oh the irony.

You are not a person

In a conversation about death, Tucker once said to me “you don’t ever actually die. In a very real and physical sense, each of your actions makes an impact on others. I am a different person because of you, and you because of me.” I like to think of the world that way, that we are all connected: actions we do make an impression on others that is physically modifying their brain – a wave to a friend is a series of chemicals in your brain moving a series of molecules, which will affect a series of chemicals in the receivers’ brain as well. (In my opinion free-will-based questions of whether we can actually control this and soul-based questions of whether there is a non-physical more are completely beside the point I make here.)

Consider how people are raised and how we react to incentives: a happy community, a family with issues of alcoholism, a great workplace, are all examples of people being a part of a fabric of actions. Think about stories, which in a way can be said to exist not in individual people but connected by an actual physical line between many people. So I am the ambitions and hopes of my parents, my own reaction to those hopes, the energy of the city I live in, the fears in the television shows I watch, the thoughts of the people I live with, all mediated by my brain and body, which has the genetic signature of my parents and the physical components of thousands of plants and animals. In this beautiful chain of causality, we function in some ways like a massive organism. There is no metaphor in what I am saying – this is physical and real.

Look at how a YouTube video can spread across the internet through social connections. Think of how a virus can spread, or a dollar bill. Now consider a smile to a stranger; how do you react when a stranger smiles? I smile back, feel good for a while, and probably smile at a few other people. Sometimes a chain like that will die, yes, but other times it must keep going, passing and mutating like some geometrically growing game of telephone. What if your smile travels at once on planes to South America and Africa? Maybe it comes back to you in a week and then again in a month–the same smile you started.

So in so many ways you are not a person but a node, information and thoughts being expressed and reflected, mediated by your consciousness. I think it’s a beautiful way to look at the world.

work hard play hard

Thank you NYC, for being open enough to embrace this in the Times Square subway stop.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week. Today will be the fifth day of my job working on  a major Hollywood film (the name will come soon.) I have a reverence for this director that I have for few artists and feel the same way about the source material for the film, so it’s as close to a dream workplace as I could have dreamed about. The irony here is that I moved away from Los Angeles in the hopes that there would be plenty of work here, and everyone but a few people are from LA and living out of suitcases. The big money and the big work is in LA for the time being, it seems. Thankfully, the big money can afford a lot of plane tickets.

This blog will include only very general observations from my work experience, as I’m erring on the side of caution with the NDA I signed (Can I talk about the NDA?)

I also got to attend the beautiful Rhode Island International Film Festival Oscar Party. It was one of 50 official Academy events, and Demetria and George really outdid themselves. It was held in the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium near the Providence mall, a beautiful restored theater. Check out the photos by the talented Mary Hanley to see the giant Oscar banners offsetting a naked stage illuminated by colored lights. Playing the dual role of guest and volunteer, I took a few tickets, ate a few appetizers, and got to shake hands with the mayor! It was fantastic to be back with old friends, and a needed reminder of where I came from, and that the community I loved in Rhode Island is still there.

So it’s been 10-hour days filing and organizing next to a brilliant auteur director, which is awesome, gratifying, terrifying, and humbling. Things like sleep, the gym, and blogging have fallen by the wayside. I’ve fallen off the wagon in my caffeine addiction.

At nights, I have been in meetings to direct several projects. I’m working with dancer, friend, and Brown ’08-er Owen David on a short 1-minute video to complement a dance he is choreographing for the Harvard Ballet Company. It will be a short, abstract piece about sex in New York, focusing on how the city mediates the experience of going out and sexual encounters. There’s not going to be music, only ambient and natural sound. We did a test shoot to check my camera’s reaction to dark city streets, and the results were really promising (you can watch the video with a few hasty effects applied here if curious. The final thing will be polished and edited, but this was just to get a sampling.)

I’m also talking with the Mark Williams Band about making a sweet music video for their song “Wonderful.” It’s a song about having sex in lots of cool places, and we want to include plenty of color and movement (think balloons, paint, yarn, in-camera effects.) In our preliminary talk we watched a bunch of music videos, especially some from Stylus’ top 100 music videos of all time (list of my favorites below.) It’s an exciting project with a dynamic band, so I hope it gets off the ground.

It’s amazing how quickly my entire mindset has shifted from existential ponderings to day-to-day needs. It is a healthy shift for now. There’s a lot to be said for balancing individual and work commitments, but it’s always cool to chill at home and freelance. For now though, my train is fueled up and speeding along.

Check out these videos we watched for our music video:

There’s so many videos out there, especially in this sphere it’s hard to comprehend doing something original. We try to bounce outside that box.