Saturday, November 29, 2008

Announcing "Bollywood Steps"



After much consideration, i have settled on a title for my upcoming documentary.

"BOLLYWOOD STEPS"

“Bollywood Steps” is an inspiring documentary featuring the story of American-born Indian boys discovering their heritage through the magic of modern Bollywood dance.

They’re the definition of the modern American - enjoying the opportunities that the USA has to offer, but at the same time, celebrating their own culture.


I look forward to sharing more with all of you very soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gadgets, Gadgets!

Since the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, doesn't have any cool gadgets, I've had to seek out my own for the season.

My two favorites are:

The Optoma Pico Pocket Projector, which is the perfect companion to any small video-capable device, such as the Iphone or Ipod.  It's a $350-$400 pocket-size LED projector, and offers almost everything for a great pocket presentation (I say almost because audio is limited to the onboard speaker, or the speaker or audio output on your video device.  It's pretty cool, though.  Here's a fun British demo (with some over-the-top bad hosting):




Another, more practical innovation that will be great news to Iphone users, is the Power Slider Case (below), an enclosure for the Iphone which includes its own battery, and so adds many more hours of battery life (the current Iphone, which also serves as a computer device, sucks up more energy, so the battery lasts barely a day - if that).   Not as sexy as the projector, but much more useful.  It will be available for about $100 starting this Friday.  This is one accessory I'll be adding to my collection.

For you non-Iphone users....more to come.....soon or later!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things You Wouldn't See Today

I recently came across a 1976 issue of the "Portola Press," my junior high school's student newspaper.  The May issue that year included news on some activities not likely to be found on any junior high / middle school campus today.

One reporter wrote of "Slave Day," explaining that "the boys were to carry the girls' books for four periods to each of her classes. They were allowed to leave five minutes early and arrive at class five minutes late. In return for their services they received a lunch from their slave master."

Another story wrote of "Disco-Skate '76," which featured roller skating in the gym, followed by a dance. "For those who did not want to dance there was ping-pong and caroms."  The story concluded with the mention of a particular student "that did a terrific 'Robot'."


Saturday, November 22, 2008

YouTube Live

I watched YouTube Live today, a celebration of all those who owe their fame to the success of their YouTube channels.  If not for the ultra-democratic YouTube platform, most of these people who have remained anonymous in their individual corners of the country (this seemed to focus primarily on American YouTubers).

The performances were amusing, if not all stellar - the show had the feel of a 21st century variety show - with singing, dancing, and outrageous stunts.  Most had achieved internet fame in the comfort of their own homes, so their comfort levels in front of a large audience varied widely.  

Still, the creation, just a few short years ago, of this new outlet for artistic expression hints at an  entirely new entertainment genre.  It will rise and fall organically, and provide a form of entertainment independent in form and design from television or motion pictures.   YouTube is already entertaining, and sometimes even politically relevant - but it's really only the beginning.

Too Much Information

I was a bit under the weather for a day or two, and found myself watching a bit too much news.  At this point in time, we're being bombarded with desperate reports on the state of the economy, and dire predictions of where we're headed.  Watch too much news, and it seems like the Collapse of Western Civilization (or the world!)

If history has taught me anything, it's that there are no absolutes.  As horrible as everything sounds, the likelihood is that this downturn will not be as deep as the Great Depression - nor will the recovery be instantaneous.  

Most people I know are taking steps to prepare for a deeper downturn - exploring job opportunities before they need them, cutting back on spending, and so on.  They're being more creative with their time, and more practical with their needs - in a way, we're developing as a nation the same habits our parents and grandparents developed to survive the Great Depression. I believe the same shift is also occurring internationally, on a governmental level. The world in interconnected like never before - as is our collective response.

This great historical drama in which we're living will, like all great dramas, move in an unexpected direction.  Our future will not be what we expect, or what history has shown us.  This is a unique moment in time. 

I think we're all about to be surprised.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And If That's Not Enough

Here's a look at the technology behind the photo on the previous post.  Immersive Media didn't simply create the photos you can find on Google, they have also created a video technology with the same manipulative abilities.  You can turn the camera in any direction as the video plays.

Make sure you click on the little VW in the upper right hand corner of their home page, to find out more about where their 360 degrees have gone across the US so far....

Monday, November 17, 2008

Google Maps

I just discovered an incredible feature on Google Maps. For those of you who have been following my blog, you've seen satellite images of the neighborhood where I grew up in New Hyde Park, New York.  Using the Google Earth program (available free from Google), you can zoom in to varying degrees virtually anywhere in the world.

Google also maintains a Google Maps site - a mapping site similar to MapQuest.  What Google has added, in some cases, is the ability to actually see street level images of addresses in question.  Here's what came up when I brought up the street-level view of my childhood home on Country Village Lane:




View Larger Map
What's even more amazing is the ability to pan 360 degrees from this spot, and to zoom in and out. Click on the controls - those features are active on this image!  Take an immersive journey into my childhood world!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Political Firestorm

We're in the midst of a political firestorm.  Our dire (word-of-the-day) economic situation, combined with the election of Barack Obama, has brought us into an era the demands massive government action.  The fight, just beginning, will determine just what that action will be.

As I write this, the immediate debate relates to the support the government should lend (figuratively and literally) to the so-called "big three" automakers, which are on the verge of collapse.  Without in immediate infusion of perhaps $25 billion dollars, they will close in a matter of months, leaving over three million people out of work, and deepening the financial collapse. A bankruptcy of an automaker, according to the New York Times, could cost the economy at least 175 billion dollars.  Some argue that the automakers are suffering for years of mismanagement and should be allowed to fail now, instead of postponing their bankruptcy.  Others claim the they are turning the corner, releasing more hybird vehicles than ever, and should be rescues from the current crisis.

T. Boone Pickens, the legendary Texas oilman, speaking on today's edition of "Meet the Press," just expressed his primary concern:  "Where does this all end?"  How many businesses can we afford to "bail out?"

We are in an strange time of both optimism and panic - elements that contributed in no small part to the nationwide street festival that broke out on election night when Barack Obama was elected.  

The Obama administration hopes to keep the electorate as engaged as they were during the election.  Any government action will require substantial public support.  Ideas and proposals are already being presented, but until January 20th, we're stuck in a leadership vacuum.  People are waiting to see what will happen.

As a nation, we're terrified  - but hopeful. 




Monday, November 10, 2008

The Gamble Question

There are quite a few challenges in determing the truth about Simon Gamble.

First, in our Google-ready age, "Simon Gamble" is one of those especially British names.  Google him - or, better yet, Facebook "Simon Gamble," and the list is long, making actually finding the right Simon Gamble a challenging task in a world of perhaps thousands of Simon Gambles.   

Second, I am, of course, assuming that "Simon Gamble" is this individual's true name.  Unlike today, when online monickers can take on infinite variations, using a fake name with a street address might have caused too much confusion in mail delivery.  I'm betting he is actually named Simon Gamble.

Now, if I was adequately obsessive and wanted to spend the money, I suppose I could hire an investigator to explore the last known addresses I have for him in the early and mid-eighties, and trace him up to the present day - but I think that would be a going off some sort of deep end....

Picking a random letter out of the pile, written on September 9th, 1981, Simon writes about returning from a three week vacation in Greece.  He'd stayed previously on Greek islands, but this was his first time on the mainland, and in Athens, in particular.  He mentions that he had planned to go on to Israel to stay with relatives, but changing his plans after he "got through more than a huge amount of money" and returned home instead.  He wrote that he had given his notice at his current job in Northampton (where he lived on "Shakespeare Road") and was hoping to find a job in London and move there.  In the meantime, he would be living off of his savings.  He doesn't indicate what the job was - but perhaps other letters will provide clues, particularly if he advanced in that same field (though it's been 23 years since his last letter, so anything is possible).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Mystery of Simon Gamble

Recently, I re-discovered a stack of letters I received from a British friend, Simon Gamble.  I never actually met Simon; we became "pen-pals," writing to each other for about five years, beginning when I was nineteen.  In 1980, the internet was unknown, and so the world was still a lot bigger.  My sister related her experience with having international friends, and I thought it sounded interesting.  I saw an article in the Cal State Northridge college newspaper about an organization that matched up people with similar interests, and before long, I began writing to Simon.

When we began writing, Simon was living in Northampton. One of his earliest letters discussed the Moscow Olympics (which the US was boycotting),  the difference between his cold English weather and my warm California weather, and our mutual interest in Charles Dickens.  Over time, he would relate the ups and downs in his life, and his progress from living in a remote English city with few friends of his own age, to a full social life in London.

Over the following several years, each of us would write nearly 20 letters.  I'll be recalling some of these letters over my next few blog entries, seeking out clues to a mystery:  After five years of correspondence, Simon abruptly stopped writing to me.  In his last letter, he expressed interest in my upcoming first visit to London, and our opportunity to  meet for the first time.  We would never meet, however.  In fact, I would never hear from him again.


Monday, October 13, 2008

My Kid Landmarks


Since Google Earth has improved it's technology, I thought it was time to revisit my old neighborhood in New Hyde Park, New York - This is where I lived until I was eleven, and we moved to California.  Here's a key to some of my own personal walking tour:

a - This is it...home base!  Though our street was flat, our house had to be the flattest.  Once we had a flash flood and our house was the only one that flooded. I remember looking down into our basement, and discovering that books float.
b - Ridder's Pond.  During that same flash flood, the pond overflowed, and we ended up with a snapping turtle in our backyard.
c - This is where the bus stop to Wickshire School used to be, before it moved across the street.
d - This is the new bus stop.  I don't know why it moved, but we thought it was unfair that we had to deal with the inconvenience of crossing the street.
e - My lemonade stand was usually located here.  I didn't build it into a multi-billion dollar empire.
f - My friend Larry lived here.  He sometimes was my partner in the lemonade business. We usually parted ways over financial issues.
g - I got into a huge screaming argument with Chris on this corner. I don't remember why, exactly, but we ended up yelling "What a friend YOU are!" at each other as we walked away from each other.
h - This is where Chris lived, and where he went when our argument was over.  Notice that we lived over the fence from each other. We built the fence to keep out his St. Bernard, Nard.
i - My Stingray bike was stolen from a bike rack located right here. Larry swore up and down he saw bigger kids with it, and they through it into some flood control channel.  We never turned up any evidence.
j - There's a little police way-station located here.  I remember when they built it.  I thought they build it to catch me.
k - As a kid, I didn't even know this existed.  I still don't know what it is.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Pal Al

I am very excited to announce that I have recovered one of my long-lost documentary classics.
As a documentary filmmaker, I am sometimes given the opportunity to develop close personal relationships with powerful people. In this documentary, shot at the 2000 Democratic Convention, observe Al Gore and I as we ponder his candidacy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Evil Plots

I was standing in line at a Fry's Electronics Store today, listening to a conversation just ahead of me about the causes of the worldwide economic meltdown.   The two parties ahead of me - one, an older couple, and the other a guy somewhere in his 20's - were convinced that the crisis was a planned event.  Apparently, in their view, this was all a great manipulation to move us to a One World Goverment.  They see the coordinated efforts of international governments as the precursor to the creation of a true World Bank.  They recalled George Bush Sr.'s pronouncements of a New World Order.  The younger guy reminded his new friends that it's easy to manipulate people when they're down (in other words, while we're all poor and desperate).

I'm always fascinated with theories that involve massive plots that would need to involve legions of co-conspirators.  Usually, these are the same people furious at our ineffective government.  Yet, somehow, that ineffective government excels in only two areas - creating intricate secret plots and keeping thousands of co-conspirators quiet.  Apparently, our government brilliantly conceived a faked moon landing, and staged 9/11, both with a level of secrecy that has disposed of the uncertainty of human beings, and an extra dose of complexity (after all , why simply implode the World Trade Center when we could fly planes into the buildings) simply for good measure.

I suspect we'll see a dramatic rise in paranoia over the next several months as the financial crisis continues to develop.  The greatest danger isn't financial - it's desperation.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sarah, Sarah

I came across this interesting tidbit of information.  Robert F. Kennedy Jr., writing on his blog on the "Huffington Post" website, comments on a writer quoted by Sarah Palin in her acceptance speech to emphasize the importance of so-called "small town values." It turns out the author quoted isn't exactly a symbol of virtue.

One has to wonder what Palin's values are, if this is the sort of author she reads....

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Final Weeks

We're in the final weeks of the presidential campaign - perhaps one of the most interesting campaigns in recent history.

I find it fascinating how people can see entirely different people in the same candidates, depending on whom they support.  Sarah Palin, of course, is the ultimate example.  During her interview on CBS News, Katie Couric asked Palin what newspapers she reads.  She couldn't clearly answer:



Palin's answer, to me, seems nothing short of bizarre.  It's really a simple question.  One or two titles would have sufficed.  She couldn't - or wouldn't answer.  

Others have complained that the media is engaged in a hatchet job on Palin - it's hard to see how such a "soft" question could be construed as confrontative or even manipulative.  

Palin did better than expected during the Vice Presidential Debate with Joe Biden - but that's a situation that reflects, for both candidates, a week or longer of cramming for the big night. 

It's the little things that count.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Early Connection

There are some kids that I was friends with very early in my life.  By early, I mean kindergarten or first grade or so, but not much beyond.

I remember attending the birthday of one of my friends in the basement of his house, where his mother sang "I knew an old lady who swallowed a fly - I don't why she smallowed a fly - perhaps she'll die."  I think they moved to Texas shortly thereafter.  I don't remember much - or even anything- about the boy himself.   I think he's in a class picture I have from nursery school.  I guess I must have thought His mom was cool.  If I knew what cool was.  




Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Crossroads

After nearly a decade of crisis after crisis in this country, beginning with 9-11, we're at a crossroads. The current financial disaster still feels distant - but there's chilling agreement across the political abyss that our economy is  headed for disaster without dramatic action.  Even with the  action, which requires the government spending perhaps a trillion dollars, the final impact on all of our lives remains uncertain.

What seems more certain, however, is that we are living through a critical moment in history - a convergence of events and political energy probably unequalled since 1968.   In some uncanny ways, 1968 and 2008 share a crisis atmosphere.  An unpopular war.  An unpopular President.  A sense of polarization in society.  And, finally, a visionary call for change.   In 2008, we have a chance for what kids would call a "do-over."  

Maybe this time, we'll get it right.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Stuff I'm Stuffing My Brain With

I tend to read (and listen to audiobooks) in clusters - that is, I simultaneous read and listen to two or three books at a time.  

This time around, I'm enjoy three books that are directly related to ongoing interests of mine.

In my car, I'm listening to an audiobook of "The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America," a recent book tracing the violently abbreviated Presidential campaign of RFK.  It's actually surpisingly relevant 40 years later, considering all of the issues we're facing today - it also reveals the beginning of an evolution in race relations in this country that has culminated with Barack Obama's candidacy.  Some of Obama's campaign style, in fact, is inspired by Robert Kennedy.

Yes, I'm also reading actual books!  

"The Real Oliver Twist - Robert Blincoe: A Life That Illuminates A Violent Age" is an historical biography of a workhouse child turned human rights activist whose story may have inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist.  The truth about workhouse children - the ill-treated young  slaves that drove the industrial revolution - is even more brutal then Dickens portrayed in his book, which was meant as social commentary.

Finally, I'm reading "Devil May Care," the newest James Bond novel.  Author Sabastian Folkes is the latest in a succession of estate-approved authors to adapt Ian Fleming's immortal British Spy.

All in all, it's a good selection this time around.  Something for every occassion, as it were....

Monday, September 15, 2008

PIrate Princess

My friends Kim Turney and Lynette Privatsky are in the midst of launching their new web series, "The Perils of the Pirate Princess." It's a lively, entertaining, engaging - and addictive new take on web entertainment! Take a look at PiratePrincessProductions.com

Web entertainment is still in its infancy - there's no set formula on how to make it work (read: to make money), but there's a lot of opportunity for independent artists to make an impact - this is something that feeds the public's appetite for pirates.  It's niche marketing - watch and see what happens! 

And while you're there, go to " The Scuttlebutt" - the site forum - and tell 'em Captain Bligh sent you!

I finally know who I am.

http://justjared.buzznet.com/2008/01/18/zac-efron-richard-samuels/

Friday, September 12, 2008

How I Waste Time

Here are the top websites I use most frequently, in no particular order:

The "Latest Polls" page of Real Clear Politics lists, day by day, the latest local and national polls related to the Presidential election.  It's almost a masochistic exercise - the polls move up and down slowly, and we have almost two months to go - but, I'm addicted.

Facebook - Yes, I am one of the 100,000,000 million with a Facebook.  It's all about social networking - but that's a term changes as the sites evolve.  What's it do for me? I dunno!  

Linked In - This is a site that's more of a business-oriented networking site - it's more about professionals keeping up with each other.  I visit here less often, but its useful to keep track of my professional colleagues.

I also check CNN.com on a regular basis - and I look at the New York Times daily - on my Iphone.  That's a whole different category.  I also check in with Apple.com - the site that supports my computers, Iphone and Ipod - and helps explain how they all work together.  

Finally - yes, I admit it - I like to browse YouTube - I like to think of it as America's Funniest Home Videos - unleashed!  Plus, I can also get it on my Iphone!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm Back!

I've decided to resume this incredible blog once again.  I just can't seem to get all my thoughts into the status line in Facebook!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Closing Time

When I was a small boy, I would become uneasy at times when I was out shopping with my parents at a department store and an announcement came over the public address system that the store would be closing in fifteen minutes.  I thought that if we didn't hurry out, we might be trapped in the store all night.  I would have run to the entrance if my parents had let me.  In my child's world of absolutes, closing meant that employees and customers alike would be gone at the moment of closing time, and the gates would clang shut.  I couldn't quite grasp why my parents seemed utterly unconcerned at the developing crisis.  They took their time and sauntered through the store as if they had all the time in the world.  I imagined being in the center of the store, the lights going out, and being trapped in complete darkness without food or water.   As every little kid knows, the darkness hides very scary things.  Turn out the light, and instantly,  you're surrounded by horrible creatures of the night.




Monday, June 30, 2008

The Web Widens

I see that my friend, Josh Morgan, has responded (Jacob's CafĂ©: Maintaining Connections) to my post on Saturday, which in turn was inspired by his earlier posts.  We're exploring the nature of communication  - the real development of a virtual town square where people interact and learn from one another.  Our own interaction, in itself, provides an example of how small the world will become.  We're hardly as prolific as some - the blogging community is huge - we're a tiny corner, but I'm fascinated as much with the discussion we've initiated as the fact that we're communicating on an intellectual level that would have been unlikely to have evolved in any other way.  In his recent post, Josh writes about the evolution of social networking technology to make interaction automatic - he'll be alerted to my latest post as soon as it's activated.  He doesn't have to seek it out - it will come to him.  

The evolution of social networking means that friends and associates can stay in touch passively. Even if we get caught up in the sweep of our own personal histories, there will soon be no such thing as "losing touch."  Personal connections could endure with  little or no effort, ready to be reactivated by a simple "Facebook" or "MySpace" comment, or a comment on a blog. 


Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Most Important Lunch Ever

A Chinese investment fund manager will be paying 2.1 million dollars for lunch with billionaire Warren Buffet, after winning a charity auction on Ebay this Friday evening. One wonders what the two will talk about, but as Warren Buffet is probably the most successful investment fund manager of all time, they undoubtedly will speak the same language, business-wise.

The more intriguing question is: what would any of the rest of us do with the opportunity to spend a casual lunch with one of the wealthiest individuals in the world? Would we ask for advice? A grant? A loan? An investment in our future? Money? Perhaps some would simply talk about common interests, current affairs, favorite movies, philosophy or questions of faith.  All of the above?

How do we prepare for the opportunity of a lifetime?  Do we study his history - read biography after biography so as to make the most out of the opportunity? Do we create a business proposal? Rehearse the opportunity with friends?  Rehearse in front of a mirror? On the other hand, do we simply reject the idea of undue preparation and present ourselves as we are and simply enjoy lunch with another human being?

Finally, I'm sure some would turn down the opportunity outright, unimpressed and unmoved by accomplishments and power.

What would I do?  I would think that the key to making the most of an opportunity like this is to recognize first that individual like Warren Buffet is first and foremost another human being, albiet an individual with particular abilities and talents that have worked well for him.  Learning about the so-called rich and powerful is fascinating not because of their wealth, but how they learned to improve on their circumstances.  For me, that's the primary fascination I have with power and leadership.  

America's foremost and probably most successful capitalist, Andrew Carnegie, became, in today's dollars, perhaps the wealthiest individual of all time, beginning as a nearly penniless boy and dying as a philanthropist without compare, whose impact is still felt nearly one hundred year after his death.  There were no guidebooks to wealth and fortune as there are today.  He did it by learning from experience.

What would I want to gain from a lunch with a Warren Buffet-type individual?  I wouldn't be interested in how he reached his level of accomplishment - the nuts-and-bolts of extraordinary success vary from individual to individual.  

I think I would ask, without further clarification, "Why are you who you are?" 

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brief Witness

Every once in a while, I've been witness to brief slices of a larger drama.  I might be driving by a particular situation, or overhear a conversation in a restaurant.  I could pass someone on the street talking passionately into a cell phone.  

When I was in junior high school, I remember having a brief glimpse of a drama unfolding at a side street as my mother drove me home.  Two kids were engaged in a fight in the middle of the street, their bikes laying on the ground.  One boy was in a head-lock, while the other kid pounded on his face while the small crowd around them watched.  I barely had time to register the scene before we were gone - perhaps no more than ten seconds had gone by.  I didn't know the kids, and I certainly didn't know how the fight progressed.  Did the kid pounding the other kid get in trouble? Was he the aggressor.  Or did the other kid start the fight and pick the wrong kid to bully?  Did anyone get in trouble? Do either of them remember the confrontation today?

A few years back, my niece and I were traveling on the freeway and massed through an interchange that was rapidly backing up.  We reached the reason for the back-up - a violent automobile crash.  In the ten seconds the accident was in our view, I remember but one detail - a woman's arm hanging weakly from a car window.  Was she dead?  Or unconscious and not yet attended to? Was she responsible for the accident? Was she a victim of someone else, perhaps a drunk driver?  How did her injury or death effect the world around her?  And what are the consequences of that horrible incident to which I had the briefest connection?

Or are these connections as brief as they look?  As social networking sites sometimes show us, we're more interconnected then we think.  My friend Andrew Tarr has a birthday gala a few months back.  I've known Andrew for several years.  He spent his childhood in New Jersey and Vermont.  I spent mine in New York and California.  We're a few years apart in age.  Yet, at his party, a friend of his approached me.  He'd been researching some memories from his childhood - places he and I had in common, and which led him to my blog.  That's where he discovered that Andrew Tarr was a mutual friend.  As it turns out, this individual not only grew up in my neighborhood, but on my street.  He'd been probably a dozen or more houses down the road and around a curve, but we'd been there at the same time.  He was a couple of years younger, however, so naturally, in kid law, I wouldn't have been friends with him. Yet, we shared the same place memories, we knew some of the local vendors who served the neighborhood (the guy who our parents hired to wax the floors, or the guy who drove the Good Humor ice cream truck).  We probably crossed paths numerous times.  If it had been him engaged in that street fight I witnessed, I would never know that we were connected.  

In smaller towns and simpler times, everyone knew one another, and were interconnected.  Perhaps we don't know our neighbors as much anymore - but the connections, now intricately woven and mostly hidden, still exist - just below the surface.



Friday, June 27, 2008

Mysterious Places to Go When You're a Kid

When I was a kid  - nine or ten years old - the world was still small.  While the world at large is full of mystery, as a kid, the very street on which you live holds mysterious as thrilling as the pyramids:

Exploring some else's basement was exciting.   My friend across the street a basement lined with cabinets along one wall and no dividers. I could climb in the cabinet door at one end and crawl all the way through to the opposite wall and emerge eight cabinet doors later.  I never questioned why the entire length of the cabinets was empty.  His dad's World War 2 uniform was down there as well.

Exploring your OWN basement was the best!  Our basement never ceased to be fascinating to me.  It held the remnants of past decades of family history - objects that were ancient to me even then!  Half of our basement was of normal height - but the rest was half-height, under which much of the older artifacts were shoved.  It was a dark, mysterious place into which I rarely ventured - even as I spent endless hours with my train layout in the other side of the basement.

When we moved to California, we had no basement - but we did have a garage crammed  to the rafters with boxes of mystery.  Just ask my niece and nephew. As they grew up, they eargerly accompanied me on expeditions into the increasingly shuttered garage to see what we could find from the dark recesses of family history.

Today, much of what was in that basement in New York, and then the garage and house in Tarzana is now crammed into a rarely-visited space at a storage facility in Valencia - just about the side of a small garage.  In a way, that storage facility is an entire complex of mystery garages...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Freshi

If you've been reading my Freshi Blog, you know what lately we've been running a filmmaking camp this week in Puerto Rico. One of our exciting innovations has been a live video connect between kids at the camp and kids and instructors at our offices in Burbank.  On Tuesday, the kids viewed and took part in a stunt demonstration held in our office, and on Wednesday two students in our Burbank office took part in a half-hour video discussion with a young filmmaker in Puerto Rico about a collaborative film they'll work on together (see a clip here).  It's an exciting development in our effort to create a worldwide, vibrant community of young filmmakers interacting directly in ways never before possible.  It's going to be very exciting to watch this happen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Salad Kid

There was this one kid at Wickshire Elementary School that was just about the only kid who liked to eat salads.  Unfortunately, most lunches served at Wickshire included side salads,  Rather than waste all that food, the salad kid started accepting salads from the kids at his lunch table...that expanded to  the surrounding tables...and beyond!  It got to the point where the kid that liked salad had a tower of little plastic salad bowls reaching into the air above his table....leaning precariously as he nibbled his way down.  

As for me, I never bought lunch at school.  My mom packed my lunch.  She knew better then to pack a salad.  I was anti-veggies all the way though school.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Revolution

Throughout the "information revolution" (a term which we don't hear much anymore - but an era which we're still experiencing), we've seen a world which is becoming more and more interconnected.  It's not just email and visiting websites anymore.  Social networking sites are coming up with ever-more creative ways of keeping us interacting with one another (the "applications" in Facebook, for example). We communicate in ways we wouldn't have anticipated just a few short years ago.  Having easily accessible email on cell phones is heading toward a standard feature. Communicating through video is widespred (live or through services like "YouTube"

When I was a kid, I communicated with my friends either face to face or on the phone. No email. No Myspace. No multiplayer games (well, not computer-based, anyway).  And when my family moved across the country, my childhood friends and I drifted apart.  Eleven year-olds don't generally write a lot of letters.  You found out about your friends and their interests by spending time with them, and visiting with them. Kids still do that, but they find out much more much faster through their online connection.   If a kid today moves away from his hometown, he'll tend to stay in touch much longer.

Our communications technology continues to develop at an amazing pace, and the kids that are growing up with computers today will have an entirely different experience than kids growing up with computers only ten years ago.  There's a tendency by some to see the world becoming more impersonal as a result of these new forms of communication.  I don't agree.  As these technologies develop, along with the necessary safeguards and customs that will better protect the vulnerable, more people will tend to see the net as offering viable and acceptable extensions of one's social life.  Anyone who spends a good deal of time online understands that already.

We're still in the early stages of the "revolution."  Who we are and how we interact is evolving and changing constantly, changing the very nature of community - locally, nationally and internationally.  As the telegraph and telephone was responsible for dramatic changes in the way we live, information technology is doing the same.  And we've got a long way to go...


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kid Cool

There was an ongoing competition in 2nd grade relating to who would walk down to the lunch room next to the cool kid when the teacher led us there in pairs. Why was he cool?  Because he was a little older then us, and so qualified for the cub scouts before the rest of us.  That same kid also earned his 2nd grade cool qualifications because he owned a pet duck.

There were other ways to be considered cool.  There was the kid who could reverse his eyelids (gross is cool).  I learned in first grade how cool pop culture was when I brought to school a stack of 8x10 photos from the "Batman" movie that my dad had brought home.  I took out the photos - and instantly had a crowd around me!  Cool.  If I had been asked about what was cool about some of my friends, I would have mentioned one kid's St. Bernard, another kid's gas-powered RC Car (okay, that's still cool), another kid who had shown me his dads World War 2 uniform deep in the basement, and another kid who had been in the audience on the most popular kid's TV show in the New York area ("Wonderama" - yes, that was very cool).

Cool, though, wasn't a set concept.  If you weren't within a year or so in age, you wouldn't be considered cool.  A kid about four years younger then the rest of us whose father was a movie producer - uncool.  If he were our age - cool.  Of course, how easily one defined coolness changed and became more difficult with age.  In junior high school, another kid whose father was producer of a popular TV show was sometimes seen as uncool just because of that fact.  At that age, eyelid reversing would have been extremely uncool.  RC Cars would still be cool, though.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reunion

I had my mini-reunion with Jay Elliot, whom I referred to in the last blog entry.  We have agreed that a DVD release would be a good idea.  I have an idea that I might include him in the "behind the scenes" video my nephew and I shot a few years back. 

Of course, now I have to get around to doing it -   in addition to Freshi, the two television series I'm producing for the City of LA, my "Indian/American" documentary, and various other "lesser" projects and activities.  There's 24 hours in a day - no problem!  I think I still have an open hour somewhere around 2am.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

First Film

I'm the guy on the left, directing my first film.   That kid in the middle with the hat was my friend, Jay - though the magic of Facebook, we recently got back in touch after many years. We're going to get together one of these days.

My dad shot some film of my shoot that day; this is a frame from that reel.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Golf

As if I  had free time to spare, I've somehow found the time to take up golf.  Over the last couple of weekends, my friends Andrew Tarr and Patrick Rhody have taken a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to wander about and hit little balls with metal sticks.  I've tried it a couple of times before, but since this time I'm evenly matched with two equally skilled opponents, I've had time to ponder this odd little sport.

I'm likely to take some intruction soon.  Stay tuned.

Hitting balls with metal sticks.  What have I gotten myself into?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

One Last Pic


I had to include just one more pic from my March shoot - two of the boys from my documentary.  A great photo.  All these pictures, by the way, are courtesy of my friend, David Guerrero, who has been helping me from the beginning in shooting this documentary.


Friday, June 06, 2008

India

For Freshi Films, I've just created a video summarizing our "Freshi Planet" worldwide filmmaking program.  You can see it on my "other" blog, freshifilms.blogspot.com.

Between Freshi's international program, and my own Indian project, I expect to be returning sometime in the near future.   Visiting India isn't for everyone - some Americans might find the overall environment overwhelming.  Poverty and desperation exist side-by-side with incredible beauty.  By comparison, we tend to live an antiseptic life here in America.  But for those who can adjust to the difficulties of living and traveling in India (at least between Delhi and Agra, the two cities I visited), the rewards are unforgettable.  


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I did jump in!


In response to yesterday's comment, here are two pictures: The first is from the same event yesteray, and the second features Lynette Privatsky, Dave Guerrero, and myself following a shoot at a "Holi" event the same weekend as the other photo.

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Photo from "Indian / American" Project


My good friend Dave Guerrero just supplied me with his latest collection of photos from my current documentary.  Here's one taken during "Holi," an Hindu holiday that some have described to me as a rite of spring  (there are quite a number of descriptions I've been given, but we'll leave it at that for now).


Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Shameless, Shameless Plug

(Photo courtesy Lidskin Creative)

If you like album rock, you will love Twirl, a Sacramento-based radio program hosted by an old college friend of mine, Mike Lidskin.  Put simply in the show's slogan:  "The finest music from the rock era."  You can listen live every Saturday, 4-6 pm (western time).  Go to the website:  www.twirlradio.com, for more information.   While you're there, check out the "Twirlcasts" for highlights from past episodes.  I highly recommend a Twirlcast "comedy nugget" entitled "2006 write-in gubernatorial candidate Greg Baldwin's plan for a better California.'  It's a classic moment in comedy history, if you ask me.  And not just because my best buddy from college and my nephew are involved.  Really. I swear.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Opening Weekend

I read last week that the opening weekend for the latest installment of the "Grand Theft Auto" video game franchise brought in half a billion dollars. Even taking into account the greater cost of a game, it's another dramatic example of the splintering of the entertainment industry.  I don't think video games are the future, but they are just one of a huge selection of choices we have.  

Once, we had movies, television, radio, books, newspapers and records.  Today, add IPODS and other MP3 players, video game consules, video-on-demand services, and other video delivery systems (I rarely watch scheduled programming these days), the Internet...I'm sure you could name another half-dozen new-technology services. For the entrepreneur who can create content that crosses between these services, the opportunities are exciting.   More exciting?  This is all in it's infancy.  Ten years from the now, the entertainment industry as we know it will unrecognizeable. 


Friday, May 30, 2008

Indian / American


Here's a photo from "Indian  / American," the documentary I mentioned a couple of posts back.  This weekend, we'll be shooting the kids' year-end recital. It will also mark the end of principal photography on the documentary, which I've been shooting since last November.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Current Audiobook

I'm currently listening to:  Red Land Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz, a look at routine life in ancient Egypt - at least that of the privileged classes (lower classes simply didn't have the literacy or luxury of recording their lives for posterity).  The single most interesting aspect of a book like this is as a reminder of how, across time and cultures,human beings are closely related. Its one of the great pleasures of documentary filmmaking in particular - to see a real kinship with people anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's Been a While (Again!)

It's been a while since I've posted here - but for good reason!

First, I've launched a blog for Freshi Films, the company for which I serve as Director of Production.  Check freshifilms.blogspot.com to learn about everything that's going on at Freshi, and to see some of the programming we've been creating over the past two years.  The company is really gearing up, and we're approaching a very exciting period in the company's history.

I'm also about to conclude photography on my documentary, "Indian/American" which profiles a group of American-born Indian kids who are learning about their heritage through "Bollywood" style dance.  Look for excerpts here as I move into the editing stage.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

VICTORY


My search for Yoohoo has ended where it began - at my local Yoohoo dealer.  According to them, Yoohoo was having a bottling issue.  As you can see, I am now well-stocked, and so I can report success in my ongoing battle to solve important social issues.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Currently Reading / Listening

At home, I'm reading "Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness," a biography the legendary reclusive billionaire. My interest in rediscovering Hughes developed after watching the movie, "Hoax," the true story of how author Clifford Irving tried to fool the publishing world in 1971 with a fake "autobiography" of Howard Hughes.  In reality, he had absolutely no connection with Hughes, a fact which was made clear through a telephone press conference with Hughes himself, the last time he made any sort of public "appearance" (he died in 1976).  After seeing "Hoax," I took another look at the Hughes biopic, "Aviator," and then decided to see out more information.  I also happen to know someone who was a contract actress with Hughes in the 1950's, and has a memories of Hughes that are quite in contrast with the generally accepted image of a severely disturbed man - an image, we sometimes forget, that was forged in the last few years of his life.

This book, published a few years after his death, explores Hughes' life from his family background to his bizarre ending.  I'll be curious to follow this book up with a more recent biography that might include further insights  and research gathered over the last thirty years.

In my car, I'm listening to an audio book, "Andrew Carnegie," a portrait of the 19th and early 20th Century industrialist and philanthropist that had a major impact in those two areas that is still felt today.  He began life in a small Scottish industrial town and ultimately became one of the wealthiest men of his time.  He was also as far as you can get from the emotionally crippled Howard Hughes.  It's an interesting exercise to read/listen to both biographies simultaneously. I ordered the Carnegie book as a direct reaction to reading about Hughes - I find these massively successful people fascinating in their individuality.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yoo-Hoo!

On February 20th, I received a response from the folks at Yoo-Hoo.

I have been given a list of ten stores within a dozen miles of here that might carry the Yoo-Hoo I desire - the closest only minutes away.  

I shall report back on my quest. Perhaps with multi-media accompaniment.

I implore you to stay calm during this critical time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Yoo-Hoo: The Conspiracy


Yoo-Hoo is a chocolate drink from my childhood. It's not chocolate milk or soda - it's in it's own special category.  It's mainly popular Back East - but you could find bottles of it at supermarkets or deli's, if you searched a bit. I don't think there's any food or drink I associate so closely with my New York childhood.  I remember drinking it on the beach on many a hot, humid summer. To some people, it's an acquired taste, but to me, it's an elixir.

I'm not sure why, but Yoo-Hoo seems to disappearing from Western shelves - it's now available only in those little drink boxes.  Bad marketing, I guess.  OR, maybe there's a run on the California inventory. Perhaps a California multi-millionaire with New York roots is buying up the stock, hoarding it for his own use.  I'll begin an investigation into some possible candidates.

I've been checking supermarket store shelves - but I've only found those boxes, in the local Ralphs.  There's something going on here - something sinister.
I've just sent an email to Yoo-Hoo.  

I'll report back with the results.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Parallel Worlds and Alternative Universes?

I was at a gathering a few weeks back hosted by one of my sometime collaborators. We've known each other for seven years or so, and have worked together in various ways - writing, editing, or co-directing projects.  As it turned out, one of his friends, by pure chance, has a connection with me that goes back decades.

At one of my friend's larger gatherings, one of his friends came up to me and asked me if I'd grown up in New Hyde Park, on Long Island, and went to Wickshire School.   I answered yes to every one of his questions, but strange as it may seem, it wasn't anyone I knew directly - but very likely, someone who lived a life parallel to mine as we were growing up.  A year younger, he lived probably 20 houses down the block and around the corner in my old neighborhood in New York.  We knew some of the same people - he even remembered Julie, our legendary ice cream man - and the nice guy who polished floors all over the neighborhood - we all knew when we were very young.  

We went to the same elementary school - but when you're a young kid, sometimes kids that are even a year younger than you are kids with whom you generally wouldn't waste time.  So, we lived lives that were very close - we probably sat near each other on the school bus, and we apparently shared some of the same teachers - but we never knew each other.  Nevertheless - we shared an experience - we shared a place, and we shared a time. We just operated in slightly different dimensions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Social Networking II

Once you start with several sites, it becomes a challenge - there are people who look at my website, others who look at MySpace, others at Facebook, and now a growing list on Linkedin.com. 

Linkedin.com seems to be the flavor of the day for professional networking - a friend turned me on to that site a few days ago, and numerous other colleagues from other sources have also sent me invitations since then.  I have to admit some curiousity about this site - I'll be curious to see what it provides (and, like any other network - what I can use it for) as time goes on.   

Of course, the danger is that we'll spend more time managing our networks...then actually using them!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Branding

I read an article in the New York Times the other day entitled, "Creating Brand You."  It, in turn, discussed an article in the current issue of Psychology Today in which Psychologist Judith Sills suggests "becoming your own brand," explaining that "it is the professional identity that you create in the minds of others."

Your image - or, as the CIA dubs it, your "legend," is the first impression most people will have about you.  Taking control of that image is crucial if you're serious about achieving goals.  Taking control of your image, in turn, directly reflects how focused you are on your goals. 

Sills writes of three approaches that will work will if you want to be come a brand - I believe they come hand in hand with achieving goals:

-Speaking Professionally (conferences, events that provide visibility)
-Make your presence known at meetings (our industry thrives on creative input)
-Be consistent (a universal need across all forms of employment!)

All of these approaches reflect your public face - and your ability to reach the goals you set for yourself.  

If you don't know who you are, how will anyone else know?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Social Networking to Infinity and Beyond!

Join MySpace, they said. 
No, go to Facebook. Everyone's moving over there, now.
Hey, did you hear about LinkedIn?  Like Facebook, but designed for professionals.
Each has profile.
A blog. You can see how often THIS has been updated!  
Requires Maintenance.

THEN I have my website.
And now, my new Mac Front-End for my website (web.mac.com/richsamuels).

I have my profile on Kiva.org - check it out, it's cool.  But I have to keep an eye on that little profile, too.

I have my corporate profile with Freshi Films, LLC.

Soon, I'll be working full time just maintaining my Brand!


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Indian Connections

I just looked at the visitor log for my blog, and noticed that I had a visitor a few weeks back from "Gurgaon, Haryana, India" That happens to be an area I'm familiar with - it's the area I visited back in the summer of 2006 with my Freshi group.  It was a fantastic experience - I even hear occassionally from some of the young filmmakers we taught (one of which is apparently checking up on me!).    I found that the teens we worked with in India were excited, curious and optimistic about their country's progress.   They have a pride in their own country that kids in America would recognize.

My interest in India continues. The documentary I'm currently shooting is the story of a group of Indian boys, born in America, who are being taught "Bollywood-style" dancing as part of their parent's efforts to maintain their connection to Indian culture.  It's not so much a story of Indians, but of what it means to be an American in the 21st Century.  

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Information Age: Part Two

I recently heard about a website called Kiva.org - it's a site through which individuals can loan small amounts of money to small start up ventures in third world countries.  By small, I mean VERY small - people selling coal in a small village in Uganda - or a scooter taxi service.  You don't make money - you simply make a small (about $25) loan, applied toward a specific amount, which is likely to be paid back  - and so change lives in a very real way.  Kiva's has had so much publicity lately that all of the current businesses have already been fully funded.  "Investors" can also correspond with the entrepreneurs if they wish.  It's one of the few opportunities for individuals in the western world to make a real, meaningful connection to individuals in the "third world."  It's worth a look.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Dorkiness Factor

When I was a kid, I had a favorite jacket - I knew it was spring when I could transition from my winter coat to my bright blue New York Mets jacket.  I probably wore it longer then necessary into summer just just to make sure I got the most out of it.   I don't think I ever had as much of an attachment to a jacket as I did when I was ten years old.   In fact, I can't remember any other jacket throughout my childhood.  I think I've always had the idea in the back of my mind that I'll get another jacket like that one day....

I also remember wanting what I called a "Lost In Space" shirt - mainly, a shirt with a V-neck.  Judging from some photos, I appear to have succeeded in fulfilling my desire.

I did have some ill-fated flirtations with various items - like a notorious month or so in junior high school with a pair of brown boots.  I consider that one of my "what was I thinking?" moments.  I don't even think it was possible to walk normally, but I insisted on my precious boots - until I woke up one morning and discovered the dorkiness factor.  I never put them on again - to the great relief of my friends, I suspect.   The middle school mind works in mysterious ways.





Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Information Age: Part One

There was an editorial in the New York Times this morning that called attention to the fact that 2008 is the 40th anniversary of the notorious year, 1968, which was filled with political upheaval, a collapse of US efforts in Vietnam, assassinations, and, well, some pretty good music in spite of it all.
Of course, celebrating the anniversary of a year in general is a bit odd.  After all, we might as well celebrate the first anniversary of 2007, the tenth anniversary of 1998, and so on. Of course, the journalist's point was that 1968, and in particular the meteoric rise and violent fall of Bobby Kennedy, was a tragic turning point in the fortunes of this country. Still, mourning over a now-distant moment in history overshadows the opportunities that our own age - or perhaps the near future - provide.

As wired as we are in the western world, the rest of the world is still in the infancy of the information age - a large majority of the world's population still lives shrouded in a nearly medieval control over information.  It's still possible in 2007 to keep a population isolated through ignorance.  The reasons are sometimes political (North Korea being a prime example) and sometimes economic (a newly high-tech India nevertheless struggles to educate and connect its huge population).
Of course, the temptation is to look at our own country and wonder why the wired world hasn't helped our political system - as we sit mired in crisis after crisis. We have wider access to information than ever before - but perhaps we as a people need to learn to employ the power of information more effectively.   The process continues and evolves as individuals and organizations learn to use technology to educate, inform and change the world.