Monday, December 18, 2006

Suddenly, the Poet

The dead are always looking down on us, they say
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
They are looking down through the
glass-bottom boats
of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

Garrison Keillor's sublime radio show Prairie Home Companion featured from New York City this week Billy Collins, the 44th U.S. Poet Laureate and professor of English composition at New York City College. Fans of Collins cheer that he is the first Poet Laureate since Robert Frost to enjoy both critical and popular acclaim. Since I tend to be over-exuberant about things that interest me, I will spare you the descriptors and simply let you decide.

"This lament for the diminished audience is a soap opera, a 'Little Match Girl' of high culture. To me that's ridiculous because the facts are that good poetry is exorbitantly rewarded with grants, travel, fame and positions in universities that were unthinkable 20 years ago. It's a wild time to be a poet." says Collins.

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the few words over and over.
It feels like eating
the same small, perfect grape
again and again
I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.
I stand by the big silence of the piano and say it.
I say it in front of a painting of the sea.
I tap out its rhythm on an empty shelf.
I listen to myself saying it,
then I say it without listening,
then I hear it without saying it.
And when the dog looks up at me,
I kneel down on the floor
and whisper it into each of his long white ears.
It’s the one about the one-ton
temple bell
with the moth sleeping on the surface,
and every time I say it, I feel the excruciating
pressure of the moth
on the surface of the iron bell.
When I say it at the window,
the bell is the world
and I am the moth resting there.
When I say it into the mirror,
I am the heavy bell
and the moth is life with its papery wings.
And later, when I say it to you in the dark,
you are the bell,
and I am the tongue of the bell, ringing you,
and the moth has flown
from its line
and moves like a hinge in the air above our bed.

"Poetry is my cheap means of transportation," Mr. Collins said. "By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield. There is a wonderfully self-entertaining aspect to all of this. You feel delightfully insane in a way, slipping the bonds of logic."


“Never use the word suddenly just to
create tension.” —Writing Fiction

Suddenly, you were planting some yellow petunias
outside in the garden,
and suddenly I was in the study
looking up the word oligarchy for the thirty-seventh time.
When suddenly, without warning,
you planted the last petunia in the flat,
and I suddenly closed the dictionary
now that I was reminded of that vile form of governance.
A moment later, we found ourselves
standing suddenly in the kitchen
where you suddenly opened a can of cat food
and I just as suddenly watched you doing that.
I observed a window of leafy activity
and, beyond that, a bird perched on the edge
of the stone birdbath
when suddenly you announced you were leaving
to pick up a few things at the market
and I stunned you by impulsively
pointing out that we were getting low on butter
and another case of wine would not be a bad idea.
Who could tell what the next moment would hold?
Another drip from the faucet?
Another little spasm of the second hand?
Would the painting of a bowl of pears continue
to hang on the wall from that nail?
Would the heavy anthologies remain on their shelves?
Would the stove hold its position?
Suddenly, it was anyone’s guess.
The sun rose ever higher.
The state capitals remained motionless on the wall map
when suddenly I found myself lying on a couch
where I closed my eyes and without any warning
began to picture the Andes, of all places,
and a path that led over the mountain to another country
with strange customs and eye-catching hats
suddenly fringed with little colorful, dangling balls.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wit, Will and Walls - Save the Date

Lend your voice to an historic documentary by participating in 2 public premieres of Wit, Will and Walls; the Betty Kilby Fisher Story. Presented by SUTV and The Knowledge Point.

February 16, Warren County High School, Front Royal

February 18, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Winchester

SU graduate Betty Kilby Fisher was just 13-years-old when she became a plaintiff to desegregate Warren County Schools in 1958. The activism that her family embraced and the subsequent violence they endured for their beliefs shaped Betty's life and the lives of those around her. After decades of facing racism and misogyny that brought on rage and depression, Betty now embraces her role as an African American elder whose incredible story leads us on a path to recognition and reconciliation.

Specific times TBD.

Mean People...

Okay, so those who know me understand that I am not opposed to the occasional affront to gentility, nor the well-placed bomblette to civility. But I believe David Pogue is right-on in today's NYTimes blog in calling for a time-out in both online grammer gnashing and etiquette bashing.

Here is an excerpt:

Slashdot and are extremely popular sites for tech fans. Each discussion begins with the presentation of an article or Web page–and then opens up the floor for discussion.

Lately, an increasing number of the discussions devolve into name-calling and bickering. Someone might submit, say, this item to Digg:

685 diggs. “AWESOME astronomy poem.” (posted by MetsFan 3 days ago)
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky,Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are.

Before long, the people’s feedback begins, like this:
by baddude on 12/11/06
What’s yr problem, moron. You already said it’s a star, why would you then wonder what it is. Get a clue, or a life.

by neverland2 on 12/11/06
Dugg down as inaccurate. Stars do not twinkle. It’s the shifting atmosphere that causes an apparent twinkle. Or were you stoned all through science class?

by mrobe on 12/11/06
yo neverland2–It’s a poem, idiot. Nobody’s claiming that stars twinkle. Ever heard of poetic license?

Honestly, the intellectual level of you people is right up there with a gnat’s.

…and so on.

Monday, December 04, 2006

More Wisdom...

Out beyond all ideas
of right doing
and wrong doing
there is a field.

I'll meet you there.


Wit, Will and Walls; Putting the VFH Grant to Bed

It has been a fast and fascinating year creating the short version of Wit, Will and Walls; my first foray into independent filmmaking in conjunction with Shenandoah University. The 15-minute first phase of the program is finished thanks to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities for their research grant of $12,000.00.

I wondered what I would find when I took steps toward social issue documentaries beyond work-for-hire as a director/producer with mainstream broadcast and cable outlets. VFH was an amazing partner on this project; from their support during the grant writing process to the recent final phase of wrapping budget and reports. VFH focus on ideas and the history and culture of Virginia continues to be a huge inspiration and source of energy around a very challenging project.

Thanks specifically to:

Robert Vaughn, VFH President
Dr. David Bearinger, VFH Director, Grants and Public Programs
Tori Talbot, VFH Program Associate

Thank you to the talented filmmakers and actors who worked with me on the project:
Sheila Smith, Director of Photography
Clai Lashley, Lighting Director
Ted Roth, Audio Recordist
Ahren Fehr, 2nd Camera
Theodore Snead, Actor
Tanesia Fisher, Actor
Kevin Matheson
Nick Matheson
Hallie Penwell
Cody Penwell, Production Associates
Javier Inon, Imaging Advisor

Thank you to Shenandoah University faculty and staff:
Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, Vice President of Academic Affairs
Bill Austin, The Knowledge Point History and Tourism Center Program Director
Dr. Warren Hofstra, Historian
Dr. James Bryant, Historian
Rick Ours, Director SUTV
Sandy Snyder, Grant Support
Bonnie Miller, Production Support

Thanks to the scholars who participated so eloquently in the public meeting:

Dr. Deborah Lee, Independent Public Historian
Dr. Lisa Lindquist Dorr, Historian University of Alabama
Dr. Cynthia Fleming, Historian, University of Tennessee
Phyllis Slade Martin, Consulting Historian
Dr. Douglas Smith, Occidental College
Dr. Lauranett Lee, Virginia Historical Society
Ray Crawford, PhD Candidate in Political Science, Howard University, Performance Poet

And many, many thanks to the inspiring and insightful Betty Kilby Fisher and to her dynamic and supportive family.

So many people were generous with their support and their time on this project. So far we have tallied more than $31,000 in in-kind contributions.

Here are some excerpts from my final report:

The Public Meeting

The VFH grant fostered better understanding of the humanities in the public meeting by bringing together prominent humanities scholars from around the country to discuss the historic and current state of race, gender and integration in Virginia. The panel achieved that understanding through the examination of Betty Kilby Fisher’s story of being a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case to desegregate Warren County schools in the late 1950’s. The audience of about 20 members was active and responsive with comments and questions during the 4-hour meeting and the participants diverse and cohesive in their contributions to the discussion.

Radio and print media advanced the public meeting and the Northern Virginia Daily and The Winchester Star ran lengthy articles covering the meeting itself. I am pleased to note that the publisher of the Winchester Star is Harry T. Byrd, grandson of the Sen. Harry Byrd Sr., the architect of Massive Resistance. The Star has given this project ongoing and extensive press, including a sidebar to an August article about our reenactments titled “What was Massive Resistance?”.

Those who could not attend the public meeting are still able to watch C-SPAN-style coverage of it in four-30 minute shows that continue to air for one month per show on Winchester Community Television through the rest of 2006. These shows will be made available in the Shenandoah University Library and to anyone who has an interest in them. I will send copies of those to the VFH as soon as they finish airing.

The Promotional Reel

The Wit, Will and Walls project continued to receive press attention in the Winchester area and throughout Northern Virginia in early August when we shot recreations of a few scenes from Betty Kilby Fisher’s life for the promotional reel. Betty’s 16-year-old granddaughter Tanesia portrayed Betty with grace and maturity, veteran DC actor Theodore Snead, of PBS’s upcoming Prince Among Slaves, played Betty’s father and we shot on-location in period costumes at Warren County High School and at the Virginia State Arboretum.

The promo reel carries on where the public meeting left off; by promoting understanding of the humanities in the past and in the present by allowing the narrative of the Betty Kilby Fisher story to be told through the eyes and in the voice of these premiere humanities scholars on a DVD.

The promo reel was originally intended to run 5-minutes, but the material from the public meeting was so compelling that I created a mini-documentary which now runs 15-minutes in length.

I believe this short piece provides an opportunity beyond fundraising for the film to begin community dialogue about race and reconciliation by drawing an audience into a discussion about one individual’s experience. I have already pre-premiered the piece before a journalism class at the University of Richmond and in audience surveys students commented that they felt the piece was moving and that they wanted to know more about Betty’s story. I have also been invited to speak at the University of Tennessee on November 14th and at Virginia Commonwealth University before the end of the semester.
I will actively seek community and educational presentations for this piece and I will look to VFH and others for advice on how to do that effectively. As I mentioned, I hope to premiere the short piece in the Front Royal region at a traditionally black venue and perhaps at Warren County High School in Front Royal preferably during Black History Month of 2007.

I also feel this short piece will make an excellent companion to Betty Kilby Fisher’s book and I hope to distribute it through SU’s History and Tourism center website and through Betty Kilby Fisher’s company. I will also be seeking ideas and advice from VFH on distribution and after life of this short piece.

The Long-Form Documentary

The treatment and the shoot script are underway for the long-form documentary which SU intends to premiere in the fall of 2008; 50 years after the anniversary of the Supreme Court case which desegregated Warren County schools. The main objective that has emerged the course of this grant process is to find a way to make this historical documentary appealing and enlightening to a younger crowd. That means using contemporary footage, music and shooting techniques wherever possible, limiting the use of or stylizing any archival photos and footage. I point to HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels, Alex Gibney’s Academy Award-winning Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Jeff Feuerzeig’s The Devil and Daniel Johnston as inspiration for the fresh style I hope to bring to the Betty Kilby Fisher documentary.

I believe appealing to a younger crowd also means adding another, younger main character such as Betty’s 16-year-old granddaughter Tanesia, who is thoughtful and mature and is able to bridge her family’s legacy of activism and resistance with modern day and often elusive challenges around racism.

Another consideration in reaching a younger audience is the delivery system of the documentary. A traditional broadcast of the piece will reach a certain mature demographic, and I am exploring other forms of delivery including YouTube, cell phone alerts, a website with podcasting and the festival circuit in order to reach the technologically sophisticated younger crowd. I will begin fundraising for the long form documentary around these objectives immediately.


Again, I would like to express my gratitude for including me in VFH’s grant process. I feel the public meeting and the short-form DVD have already begun to reach out and shift public awareness and perhaps they have begun to lay the groundwork for discussion, examination and hopefully reconciliation around race and misogyny that exists in communities across our country. My objectives are to continue to include and inform the public in every stage of creating this documentary, to reach out to a television audience in new and technologically savvy ways, to continue to build my relationship with the VFH around this project, and to ultimately create a fresh, inventive vehicle to educate an audience about how one story, specifically Betty Kilby Fisher’s story, can help us examine our history and the way we relate to each other in the present day.

Sincerely Yours,

Paulette Moore
Director/Producer Special Projects

College Leaders Blog

NYTimes article today about how college presidents approach blogging. Some play it safe, some tackle political issues. All who blog feel it is part of creating a buzz around their universities and opening a direct line to their students.

Some lawyers say blogging for presidents is insane - that off-the-cuff remarks can easily become a legal nightmare, but many feel it is worth the risk.

Dr. Patricia McGuire of Washington DC's Trinity University blogs about how Representative Nancy Pelosi, class of 1962, who will be the first female speaker of the House; about election results; about breaking ground for a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and about lesbian alumnae and the Roman Catholic Church, sensitive ground for a Catholic undergraduate college serving mostly minority and low-income women.

Dr. McGuire wrote that the church’s rejection of same-sex unions did not mean that the “alma mater must shun her own daughters.” She added, “All alumnae are welcome at Trinity, always.”

At Towson University, outside Baltimore, the president, Robert L. Caret, who writes Bob’s Blog, appears online in sunglasses, casually unshaven and smiling gamely alongside the Towson Tiger mascot. Dr. Caret’s blog, though, plays it safe, mostly praising particular programs like summer courses or studying abroad, or urging students to join clubs and to help spruce up the campus.

New age. Apply groovy tools with caution.

Words of Wisdom

A Zen saying I read in the magazine Shambhala Sun today that made me laugh out loud.

Open mouth, already big mistake.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Clickstar Pushing Boundaries

I recently posted about George Lucas getting out of the blockbuster film biz, while he continued to ponder online monetization. Then the guy from Guba featured in last month's Fast Company seemed to have some answers about dollars and downloads. Now comes Morgan Freeman - launching his new low budget film "10 Items or Less" in theaters December 1 and then on a brand new website called Clickstar; a venture between Freeman and Intel. Two weeks after the theatrical release, "10 Items..." will be available to download.

Gosh, just wait a little while and all that you wonder about the world shall be answered. This is great news for the independent filmmakker. Danny Devito is a partner on the documentary film side with his company called Jersey Docs.
Here are some news links to the story through Clickstar's website:

Here are some excerpts from Yahoo News, October 2006:

"It is a controversial issue, but (it) will increase the reach of the film and increase the efficiency of the marketing," Clickstar chief executive James Ackerman told Reuters. "I don't think we are going to adversely impact theater attendance."Ackerman bases his argument on the fact that movies such as "10 Items" are made on low budgets and often screen only in cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Web releasing gives fans in small U.S. towns and foreign cities access to films they otherwise would not see, not major movies such as "Spider-Man 3."

Excerpt from LA Times, October 2006:

Made for under $10 million and shot in just three weeks (Director Brad Silberling's "Lemony Snicket" filmed for a whopping 132 days), "10 Items or Less" is a small step for everyone involved, especially Intel. Besides its investment in ClickStar, Intel partially underwrote the "10 Items or Less" production budget by pre-buying the film's Internet rights.The movie, which runs a quick 82 minutes, stars Freeman as a fading actor researching a part about a grocery store manager.

The movie was filmed in practical locations around Southern California. There's hardly any production design or artificial lighting, and almost all of the camerawork is hand-held."I wanted this movie not to feel rushed," Silberling says. "I wanted to be able to find new things, discoveries, along the way."

But for all the convenience it offers, the technology offers more solutions for piracy prevention than anything else. The more quickly and easily movies are offered for legal downloading, the partners say, the fewer the people who will turn to illegal file sharing. "We see technology as an opportunity, not something to fear,"

Producing partner Lori McCreary says. "We want to make films that are easier to buy than to pirate. But it's a really fine line between giving the consumer as much freedom as possible and still having the studios comfortable that their copyright is protected."

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Passion

I've been trying to figure out what is so compelling to me about the New Jersey Rock, Paper, Scissors champ featured in today's NYTimes.

Perhaps it is the extreme "zennishness" of finding mastery in the micro.

Perhaps it is the brave defense of the banal.

Whatever the reason - the profile of 24-yar-old Bryan Bennet seems a perfect blog for a languid Sunday.

A few excerpts:

Of this we can be sure: Rock smashes scissors. Scissors cut paper. Paper covers rock.

Beyond that, all is a mystery of feint, instinct and indirection, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. Or so it goes in the world of Bryan Bennett, the newest member of the New Jersey sports pantheon after battling his way to a plucky second-place finish over 500 competitors this month in the World Rock Paper Scissors Championship in Toronto.

Mr. Bennett offers guidance but no easy truths. Jocks and meatheads like to start with rock. Women are often partial to scissors. More ethereal types prefer paper. That’s fine, except that if everyone knows this, it no longer applies.

It helps to know some of the famous patterns: fistful of dollars (rock, paper, paper); paper dolls (paper, scissors, scissors), or the full-bore machismo of avalanche (rock, rock, rock).

“It is not about predicting what your opponent will throw; it is about predicting what your opponent predicts you will throw," says Bennett.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Goodbye Robert Altman

I don't always like Robert Altman's films, but they are invariably dense and ambitious and I never had the feeling Altman was calling it in, even his later years. The prolific director died at 81 of cancer this week, leaving behind a mixed legacy of impressively groundbreaking and/or annoyingly messy films.

I loved Altman's HBO television cross-over Tanner '88 written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau. It took a fake presidential candidate on the real campaign trail with very droll results. The show had a reprise starring the same cast during the last prez election.
My favorite film was his 1992 inside Hollywood pic The Player - the pitch sessions are classic and hilarious. And Altman's irreverent take on characters running a mobile field hospital in Korea - M.A.S.H. was just so gritty, grim, and funny.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meet Metacafe

Metacafe is an Isreali video-sharing site with its sights set on surpassing YouTube, the web-based superpower that Google just bought for a kajillion dollars. What's Metcafe have that YouTube does not? Standards and incentives for contributors, according to Metacafe co-founder Arik Czerniak.

To start, those who upload videos can explicitly license their content to Metacafe and in return get paid $5 for every 1,000 views. During a recent trial run, Joe Eigo, a martial artist from Toronto, made $23,000 with a video of his acrobatic flips and kicks.

Here is an excerpt from The Economist about the site and how they control video quality:

Like YouTube, Metacafe makes money by selling advertising on its site. But unlike its rival, it makes an effort to choose and promote “good” videos on its home page. First, it rejects duplicates (about half of submissions). Then it uses 100,000 volunteers as film critics—just as Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, uses volunteers to write and vet articles. As a third filter, Metacafe then analyses the clips with its VideoRank algorithm, which crunches all sorts of metrics (whether viewers watch a clip to the end, for instance) in order to rank them—rather as Google's famous PageRank algorithm ranks web-search results.

Whether Metacafe's stuff is any good is entirely subjective, of course. Much of the content its volunteers and its algorithm approve is soft porn, and a lot, as on YouTube, violates copyright. But the system does produce statistics that are roughly the inverse of YouTube's: about 90% of the clips viewed are in the statistical “head”, not the “tail”—ie, they are popular clips featured on the home page. Counting all views, YouTube is ten times bigger than Metacafe, says Mr Czerniak, who recently moved his company's headquarters from Tel Aviv to San Francisco; but counting only views of the top 200 videos on each site, Metacafe wins by a whisker.

Here is the Metacafe site:

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Incredible Misadventures of Madeline Lightfoot

I've been muddling my way through the aforementioned Second Life this past week and it's been enthralling and mostly frustrating.

The first day I learned to walk, point, talk and fly on Orientation Island and then it was off to a number of unfathomable and hard-to-navigate neighborhoods. I wandered through boring beach communities and passed by a lot of goth sex clubs. I've been looking for the universities that reportedly do business there. I found the coordinates for Glidden University - but the campus was completely dark and I could not find the main building. Come to find out, the buildings are 600 feet in the air! Gosh! Those crazy avatars.

Then came several computer crashes. Pshhhhhhh. That is the sound of my excitement deflating.

I just found some articles on SimTeach that profile the top 20 educational locations in Second Life and their locations. This should help.

Here's a blog from Ali Andrews, the woman is building the Glidden virtual campus. And here's Ali in Second Life:

I will check these out tomorrow. And perhaps Madeline Lightfoot will have more exciting adventures to report. Ooo - and I just noticed several places to hone my Second Life Skills. Stay tuned.

Guba Guy

Just another juicy bit from this month's Fast Company. 34-year-old Thomas McInerney is CEO and cofounder of Guba, based in San Francisco. Guba won the right to be the first independent company offering downloads of theatrical movies. Now Amazon and Apple have entered the market of first being competitive with the DVD with the hope of eventually eclipsing it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Free to Be Media

Fast Company quotes tech reporter Kevin Kelly this week saying in the future all media will be free - we will only pay for functionality and personalization. This in an article about the future of newspapers.

Wit, Will and Walls at University of Tennessee

Here in Knoxville, TN this week to pre-pre-premiere the 15-minute version of Wit, Will and Walls to Dr. Cynthia Fleming's graduate class in African American Studies. Dr. Fleming has written extensively on the civil rights movement of the '60s, is the author of Soon We Will Not Cry: The Liberation of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson and was one of the scholars featured in the film. A good class with thoughtful feedback. Here are some of their comments:

"Powerful. This piece is good at presenting the civil rights movement as a broad, multi-dimensional movement."

"Excellent focus on micro, personal story. An amazing source for an amazing account."

"The reenactments were wonderful."

"Show us more storyline, more reenactments, more background."

"It would be good to get the white (students) perspective."

The second half of class was spent at Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN which was and still is a key organization for cultivating social movements in the U.S. Rosa Parks was there planning strategies six months before she was arrested, Dr. Martin Luther King spent time there. Highlander has dealt with coal mining issues, sea island literacy programs, and now has a focus on immigration issues.

We were fortunate to have been hosted by Guy and Candie Carawan; principals at Highlander, musicians and long-time activists. What a privilege to have walked around the site where such important human rights work has been fostered and to meet this dynamic couple that have been witnesses and catalysts to history.

Thank you, Dr. Fleming.

Life After Princess Leia

Director George Lucas announced recently that he'll be quitting the blockbuster film biz and that the future lies in small films and Web distribution.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for his renamed alma mater, the School of Cinematic Art at University of Southern California, Lucas said spending $100 million on a making a film and another $100 million for marketing makes no sense.

"I think people are going to be drawn to a certain medium in their leisure time and they are going to do it because there is a desire to do it at that particular moment in time, " said Lucas. "Everything is going to be a matter of choice. I think that is going to be a huge revolution in the industry."

That being said, Indiana Jones 4 is still in development and intended to be released on the good old fashioned large screen. "We are not rushing in, we are trying to find out exactly where the monetization is coming from." Amen, brother.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

High Art on YouTube

NYTimes today does a good job of mining the dark YouTube depths for high art gems...

Ferreting around cyberspace in YouTube can be a bit like going down the rabbit hole, entering a strange, oddly seductive media universe in which normal standards you’d bring to the consumption of culture don’t seem to apply. Why would anyone want to watch some nobodies from Grand Rapids performing “A Chorus Line”? You scoff, and then, possessed by curiosity, outrage or some other impulse, you click.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Second Life

With the mid-term election over and a flurry of changes and posturing in its aftermath - I want to take a moment to look back at one of the most interesting new media moves by a politician during the entire election season. Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner participated in a simulated interview at Second Life -- a Web site that offers participants the chance to wander around in a simulated world and interact with one another.

Warner created an avatar -- a "virtual" representation of himself -- to appear in the interview.

He went as a tall white man dressed in a suit, not a far stretch from his typical off-line wear. A remarkable difference was that the virtual Warner flew onto the stage to make his remarks -- a feat the real world Warner has yet to pull off (as far as we know).

Asked why he chose to be the first virtual politician, Warner said, "How people communicate and what type of communities they form is changing in real time."

Warner had a career as a technology entreprenuer before he became Governor of Virginia.

Second Life is a 3D online world with a rapidly growing population of over a million residents from 100 countries around the globe. The residents themselves create and build the world. Second Life is created by Linden Lab, a San Francisco-based company founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to "create a revolutionary new form of shared 3D experience." The former CTO of RealNetworks, Rosedale pioneered the development of many of today's streaming media technologies, including RealVideo.

Second Life has been on the cover of Business Week, on the front page of the New York Times Escapes section and in the coverage of Reuters, which has now assigned a reporter to operate full-time inside Second Life.

Basic memberships for Second Life are free. Reporters can create a free account online at To enter into the world, download the necessary software at

I just joined Second Life where I can own land, start my own business and trade in commerce with currency known as Linden dollars. My name there? Madeline Lightfoot -as of now my avatar is an urban black male. (All of the women pre-fab Avatars look like low-life Barbies).

I will keep you updated on my new, Second Life.

CNN talks about more than 60 universities setting up a presence on Second Life

Business Week talks about CEO's hanging out on Second Life

News from Second Life

Friday, November 10, 2006

Chicks n' Flicks

Some like-minded persons from the West Coast:

Based in San Francisco, Women's Educational Media (WEM) is a highly acclaimed progressive social issue documentary film production company and a leader in the field of anti-bias education. WEM's primary current focus is its Respect for All Project, a series of highly successful campaigns designed to address issues of prejudice among young people and the adults who guide their development.

Through the distribution of award-winning films, accompanying curricula, and a training program aimed at educators, youth service providers and parents, the project strives to create safe schools and communities by opening up dialogue about diversity and discrimination.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Welcome to the Revolution

Grrrrrrrreat New York Times article today about the purchasing power of women. Stunning statistics and comprehensive coverage of the feminine world of financial acumen.

The reporter buried the most stunning statistic of all (which I heard before, but forgot because it was... well - so STUNNING): According to the National Association of Realtors single women are the fastest growing segment of home buyers purchasing 21 percent of homes, compared with just 9 percent for single men.

Market researchers are now embracing women as much more than domestic divas. They recognize them as buyers with their own careers and fattened pocketbooks, who are finding plenty to do and plenty to buy outside the home.

The article is chock full of other great statistics; the Canadian developer Shane Homes states that women control 80 percent of every consumer dollar spent. They call that the 80 Percent Minority.

Also interesting websites to check out: - tracks "Jane Dough's" finances and her financial decision making every month "because speaking publicly about your personal finances was a no-no in my family" says Dough. She feels by blogging about it - she can find enlightenment in managing her $461,435.59 (in October) of assets.

Of course there is the early bird on-line community for women into home improvement.

More companies, in the United States and elsewhere, have realized that they overlook women at their own financial peril. The companies are realigning their marketing and design practices, learning to court an increasingly female-centric consumer base that boasts more financial muscle and purchasing independence than ever before.

“We are perhaps on the first step to a matriarchal society; women will earn more money than men if current trends continue by 2028,” said Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. “The trend has been escalating in the last 10 years as there has been a gradual, slow erosion of the power balance in the family, a psychic rebalancing.”

Women, Mr. Silverstein added, are “controlling purchases and driving a shift in our economy.”

More Reasons to Love Chicago

Colombia College of Chicago's Frequency TV recently became the first college television station to offer entertainment programming as Podcasts through the iTunes Music Store, says the online edition of the Colombia Chronicle.

Their original sketch comedy program called Out on a Limb has been streaming to more than 1,1oo subscribers from all over the world since October 28th, with 100 t0 200 new subscribers each day. As of Nov. 10, six more shows become available for download. It's free to download - which still begs my nagging, nagging banal question - how do we make money in this new era?! Gosh.

Frequency TV programming can be found on iTunes by searching for ?artist Frequency TV.?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston is a manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist, revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a stunning portrait of a musical and artistic genius who nearly slipped away.

Director Jeff Feuerzeig exquisitely depicts a perfect example of brilliance and madness going hand in hand with subject Daniel Johnston. As an artist suffering from manic depression with delusions of grandeur, Daniel Johnston's wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites are exposed in this deeply moving documentary.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Proving the Impossible

"He proved the impossible: that the poor were bankable."JONATHAN J. MORDUCH, an economics professor at New York University, on Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering work in giving tiny loans to millions of poor people.

Encouraging news that the 66-year-old Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for his pioneering work in giving small, even tiny loans to millions of poor people no bank would touch. By empowering destitute widows, abandoned wives, landless laborers and rickshaw drivers, sweepers and beggers, Yunus has made great strides in combating rural poverty in his own country and inspiring similar programs across the developing world.

“Microcredit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions,” the committee said in announcing the prize.

Mr. Yunus has long been an influential champion of the idea that even the most impoverished people have the drive and creativity to build small businesses with loans as small as $12, and Grameen Bank has dedicated itself to helping the poorest of the poor.

Go Mr. Yunus.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wit, Will and Walls in Loudon Times-Mirror

Speaking your mind
By Betsy Allen

Put yourself in Betty Kilby Fisher's place: a teenager living in Virginia 50 years ago -- trying to do well in school, make friends, fit in.

Now, imagine you are thrown into a situation where your mere presence drives students from the school's doors. Picture yourself as a source of turmoil and target for some of the worst kinds of ugliness human beings can conjure.

Could you endure?Tanesia Fisher, 16, a junior at Stone Bridge High School, doesn't think so."I probably wouldn't have been as strong as her. I couldn't have handled it."

Tanesia is the granddaughter of Betty Kilby Fisher. And this was the situation Fisher found herself in during the late 1950s, when she was a 13-year-old living in Warren County.Dismayed by widespread segregation practices, Betty's father, James Kilby, decided to draw the line with his own daughter.

He filed a case in Betty's name to force the integration of Warren County High School. Ordered by federal courts to end segregation, Virginia balked; instead, the governor ordered the closing of that school, along with others in the state, as part of a policy of Massive Resistance.

Eventually, Virginia's Supreme Court ruled that policy unconstitutional and the schools reopened, but the white students stayed away. For months, Betty and a handful of other black teenagers walked the quiet halls at Warren County High School.Over time, white students returned - some with a vengeance. Betty was emotionally, verbally and physically abused, and resulting trauma has stayed with her throughout her life.

People may not "understand the price that we paid to get an education," said Betty, 61, who now lives in Euless, Texas.

"That's the way you take someone's power away," said Paulette Moore, a documentary film director associated with Shenandoah University in Winchester. Moore is producing a film about Betty and the events of 50 years ago.

"[Betty] didn't tell anyone what happened," said Moore. "If young girls told their families, they would have to go and defend their honor. People could get killed."

In 2002, Betty shared her experiences in a book, "Wit, Will and Walls.""When I first wrote my book, I had an image of young people reading the book," said Betty. "There were things I didn't want to put in. But if I cut and pasted pieces, it wouldn't be a real story. I thought, if I am going to touch people, it will be with the raw truth."

Moore found Betty's story deeply compelling, and an ideal subject for a documentary film. When it came to casting the film, Betty felt strongly that her granddaughter Tanesia could play an important role - that of Betty herself.

Tanesia is thoughtful and direct when asked about her grandmother's experiences and her decision to be part of the film.

"I've always been really close to my grandmother. I knew some of the story," said Tanesia. "But I didn't know all the stuff she had to go through. When I read the book, I was surprised. I was kind of hesitant about the whole acting thing ... showing so much emotion, but I didn't want to disappoint my grandmother. It means a lot to her."

A four-day shoot in mid-August took the film production crew and cast to locations around Clarke and Warren counties to re-enact key events in the story. Moore now is seeking additional funding to undertake a second phase of the documentary production. She has a target completion date of 2008, 50 years after the original case was filed.

The director is constructing the historically based film in a way that young people today can relate to, with limited black-and-white footage - "the events took place in vivid color" - and contemporary music instead of gospel or march songs.

She feels there is an important message here.

"You don't have to be Betty Kilby Fisher to make a change. It's not alchemy," said Moore. "It starts with just speaking your mind."

That's something Tanesia does well. She realizes there are people who honor the legacy of her grandmother - and those who don't.

"You can't force people to appreciate it," said Tanesia. "No one changes just because of one decision someone makes. Racism is still everywhere. It's still in school. Most people are in denial." But she adds, "If you reach out to the younger kids, they'll realize that what they have now is something to be grateful for."

What Tanesia has now are some specific goals. She wants to go to college, earn a business degree and open a seaside resort hotel in her mother's native country, the Philippines.A grand dream, perhaps, for any high schooler - but one that seems in reach. And for that we can thank, in large part, people like Betty Kilby Fisher, who gained their own beachheads in Virginia's civil rights movement half a century ago.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What the Bleep?!

It only took me two years to view the mind-bending film What the Bleep Do We Know? which combines the laws quantum physics with spirituality. Watching it last night was very timely - just the day before I had a conversation with young Winchester filmmaker Kevin Matheson about how his thoughtful film about his addictive brother may have brought about a long term change in his brother's behavior.

What the Bleep? explains that electrons can behave either as particles or as waves - and it depends on whether they are being observed or not. The Bleep filmmakers contend that being that we are made up of electrons, our mere observation in our life, and the way we observe it can change our reality - much like those crazy electrons. Whoa. I love it. Especially being a filmmaker who observes for a living. And I think so many other people love it because it feels inherently true.

The film gets a bit kum bah ya at the end - a little too much triumph of the human spirit for my snarky liking, but overall, it is great brain yoga.

It's part documentary/part drama with Marley Matlin as a cranky photographer having an existential experience.

Critics hate the film BTW. Which has made it a marketing phenomenon. Quantum Physicist Mr. Porteno is suspicious but not completely damning.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Inanimate Hostility

This from my friend Dr. Deborah Lee - finally! A scientific explanation for why your computer crashes and all of your memory disappears from your hard drives only when you are careening toward deadline with no room for error.

Resistentialism (ri-zis-TEN-shul-iz-um) noun The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior against us.[Coined by humorist Paul Jennings as a blend of the Latin res (thing)+ French resister (to resist) + existentialism (a kind of philosophy).]If you ever get a feeling that the photocopy machine can sense when you'retense, short of time, need a document copied before an important meeting,and right then it decides to take a break, you're not alone. Now you know the word for it.

Here's a report of scientific experiments confirming the validity of this theory:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What a Woman!

We lost a truly grand person this week with the death of 73-year-old saucy/smart former Texas governor Ann Richards. As a young reporter, I watched her, awestruck, from the floor of the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta as she delivered a rousing speech with a few of her famous salvos, one for pappy George Bush:

"Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth!"

And in keeping with her dedication to push for the rights of all minorities - this good perspective on the talents of women:

"Ginger Rogers did the same thing that Fred Astaire did... she just did it backwards and in high heels!"

Here is the NYTimes obit:

And more hilarious quotes from the guv:

(On ineffective government programs) "You can put lipstick and earrings on a hog and call it Monique, but it's still a pig.''

"A woman's place is in the dome."

"I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you."

Asked once what she might have done differently had she known she was going to be a one-term governor, Richards grinned. "Oh, I would probably have raised more hell."

"Let me tell you that I am the only child of a very rough-talking father. So don't be embarrassed about your language. I've either heard it or I can top it."

"I get a lot of cracks about my hair, mostly from men who don't have any."


This best-selling book was a little ADD for me to connect all the dots drawn by authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner - but their curious and chaotic take on the world is exactly what makes their blog so much fun... engaging bits about everything everyday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Radical Redfin

It's about time! Who knew talk of real estate could be interesting and even radical? A new real estate service called Redfin buys and sells homes online and has a really entertaining blog.

The NYTimes had a great article on the group last week.

Excellent that Redfin is doing away with the 6 percent fee that goes to real estate agents who basically offer the service of multiple listing and are doing that with attitude and optimism. Too bad they are only in CA and Washington State right now. Really though, what took so long?!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

EnterTech... unfortunate name for an interesting film program at Arizona State University. Their film school is just a year old, but the principals are listening to the universe and trying in the rapidly changing environment to figure out how to prepare the futures of the film industry to be fluent in the language of technology AND content. Impressive that an advisory board of two dozen film veterans - mainly producers, lawyers and studio executives - has signed on to help shape the curriculum and speak to students about the challengs facing the entertainment industry.

"We know that the dominance of 35-millemeter film is over," says Peter Lehman, the director of film and media studies program. "We are in a period of massive change and uncertainty. We need a new kind of person in this industry."

The Magic Millenium

Celebrating Chicago this week - here in the windy city on family biz and had not seen the marvelous Millenium Park opened in 2004. It gives me great hope that a city has focused so grandly and eloquently on its public spaces. The serpentine walkway from the shores of Lake Michigan to the mind-boggling Frank Gehry bandshell is the entree to acres of sparkling experience - the Crown Fountain, the Cloud Gate, the Lurie Gardens, The Art Institute and beyond.

Where I feel New York remains stunned and San Francisco a bit torn between its bohemian and dot-com histories - Chicago feels fresh and free, an American city that knows what it has, and knows how to use it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Secrets and Lives

I am fascinated with a project out of Germantown, MD. where people write their deepest secrets on postcards and send them anonymously to artist Frank Warren.

It started out as Warren's temporary community art project. Now it's where thousands go to post their secrets, and where millions go to read them. Secret-tellers send their secrets to his home here in suburban Washington, D.C., on postcards they decorate themselves. Warren reads every one and picks 10 to 20 to post on his blog every Sunday.

They are mini-works of art. Some are heartbreaking, some are hilarious, some are touching or thought-provoking or shocking or silly or repulsive.

Among the most shocking posts was one featured in the Washington Post last year - the secret that the confessor's family thought he/she was dead after 9-11.

Coming up in October, a presentation by Frank Warren, Thursday, Oct. 5, 6 p.m., at George Mason's Fall for the Book Festival at the campus' Concert Hall, Center for the Arts.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cool Russian

I don't know where this animation of an artist sketch comes from exactly... but it is beautiful. Enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Porteno.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wit, Will and Walls

Some updates this month on my ongoing documentary Wit, Will and Walls: The Betty Kilby Fisher Story. The documentary tells the story of one woman's fight along with her family for desegregation in the Shenandoah Valley.

On August 9th my favorite TV team (which includes Director of Photography Sheila Smith and Lighting Director Claiborne Lashley) assembled to shoot recreations for the first phase of the show which we are calling "the promo". The promo, funded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, includes interviews from a public forum of scholars last April and the latest recrees and is intended to convey the style and content of a greater documentary to potential funders.

This piece will be finished by the end of September and I begin right now to search for the REST of the cash to complete the hour long documentary on the topic.

Betty Kilby Fisher's granddaughter Tanesia played Betty with grace and skill on location at Warren County High School - the school that Betty attended in the 1950s and helped integrate.

We received some good press in these dog daze of summer - check out some of the local newspaper sites:

(you need to sign in for a free subscription - but it is easy)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Try to Keep Up

Some good content and context today - I received a call to enter a Current TV short film contest on tolerance. Don't know how I missed the year-ago launch of this Al Gore inspired network, but that is the way it is these days - isn't it? Yikes. Just try to keep up.

This post is long - but I found the content of especially the NYTimes article so compelling that I thought I should put it up front. And I will try to include some entertaining, if not relevant pictures to keep an interest.

This excerpted from a June 4 LA Times article:

Current TV is a year-old California-based cable channel created by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to encourage every citizen to become both television viewer and programming contributor. As might be expected, some pieces take shots at the political right, such as an animated parody of President Bush. But others, such as a pair of pods on immigration, try for balance and describe both sides of an issue. Viewers can also contribute commercial advertisements.

Current also offers tutorials in filmmaking, journalism and storytelling from veterans including Sean Penn, Ira Glass, Dave Eggers and Catherine Hardwicke on its website (

Current's main operations are headquartered in San Francisco, where teams of employees evaluate hundreds of submissions from around the world in dozens of categories.

The Internet and "American Idol" have become runaway successes because they offer people a chance to participate. "Now we're bringing that to TV, 24/7," says Current host Max Lugavere. Similarly, IFC will introduce a half-hour series, "Media Lab," in June to showcase short films by aspiring filmmakers. More than 1,000 short films have been submitted to the ongoing show. Like Current, the highlighted films will be determined by the public's online vote. MTV has had film contests and E! collaborated recently with the website in a video contest. Viewers also contribute a variety of videos to other sites, such as Google, Yahoo and iFilms, which was recently purchased by Viacom, owner of MTV.

The NYTimes gives perspective on how Current fits into current trends. Excerpts from that:

The number of vehicles through which young people find entertainment and information (and one another) makes them a moving target for anyone hoping to capture their attention.
Advertisers and media and technology companies, mindful that young consumers have migrated away from the traditional carriers of their messages, have begun to find new ways to reach them. They are creating advertising and short videos for mobile phones, for instance, cell networks with dedicated game channels, and $1.99 TV programs to download to iPods and PC's.
And while the emerging generation's deftness with technology is a given, researchers say the most potent byproduct may be the feedback factor, which only accelerates the cycles of what's hot and what's over.

"We think that the single largest differentiator in this generation from previous generations is the social network that is people's lives, the part of it that technology enables," said Jack McKenzie, a senior vice president at Frank N. Magid Associates, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the news media and entertainment industries.
"What's hard to measure, and what we're trying to measure," Mr. McKenzie continued, "is the impact of groupthink, of group mentality, and the tendency of what we might call the democratization of social interaction and how that changes this generation's relationship with almost everything they come in contact with."

Karell Roxas, 24, a senior editor at, begins each day in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn, apartment with a diet of Gmail, Hotmail, work e-mail, ("I haven't picked up a print newspaper in forever," she says) and blogs, in that order. She says it is a necessary regimen for maintaining a functional dialogue both at work and in her circle of friends.
Ms. Roxas, who grew up in Ontario, Calif., and earned a fine-arts degree in writing from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, says text messaging by cellphone is the default mode of communication for her set, surpassing e-mail, instant messaging or even talking on the phone itself.

It is all in keeping with recent research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which has found that while certain aspects of online life have become common across many age groups, it is the millennials who live at the digital edge.

Among those with access to the Internet, for instance, e-mail services are as likely to be used by teenagers (89 percent) as by retirees (90 percent), according to Pew researchers. Creating a blog is another matter. Roughly 40 percent of teenage and 20-something Internet users do so, but just 9 percent of 30-somethings. Nearly 80 percent of online teenagers and adults 28 and younger report regularly visiting blogs, compared with just 30 percent of adults 29 to 40. About 44 percent of that older group sends text messages by cellphone, compared with 60 percent of the younger group.

And as the millennials diverge from their elders in their media choices, so do the ways in which they can be reached and influenced.

The preceding generation may have thought that e-mail, newsgroups, Web forums and even online chats accelerated the word-of-mouth phenomenon. They did. But they are nothing compared with the always-live electronic dialogue among millions of teenagers and 20-somethings.

"What we're seeing is a whole different relationship with marketing and advertising which obviously has ripple effects through the entire economy," said Mr. McKenzie, who heads the Magid firm's Millennials Strategy Group, formed two years ago to serve clients desperate to know how to reach a new generation.

For the millennials, he said, "reliance and trust in nontraditional sources - meaning everyday people, their friends, their networks, the network they've created around them - has a much greater influence on their behaviors than traditional advertising."

Magid calls it the peer-to-group phenomenon - a digital-age manifestation of the grapevine.
"When someone wants to share it, forward it, record it, take a picture of it, whatever the case may be, that puts it into a form of currency," Mr. McKenzie said. "And when marketing gets to a level of currency, then it has achieved nirvana status."

And, he added, that status has "much more influence on the acceptance of television shows, or radio shows, or iPod offerings or jeans or whatever the case may be."

Some researchers, like Dr. Melvin D. Levine, director of the Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, have expressed concerns about the group-mentality dynamics that the Internet and the instant-message age may be fostering.

"You've got a group of kids who are unbelievably, incredibly loyal to each other," Dr. Levine said. "They are very bound to ethics and values. But in a funny sort of way, it prevents some of them from developing as individuals." Along with finding technological dexterity in this group, and a highly developed ability to work in team settings, Dr. Levine said he had encountered concerns that some young people lacked the ability to think and plan for the long term, that they withered without immediate feedback and that the machinery of groupthink had bred a generation flush with loyal comrades but potentially weak on leaders.

Ms. Roxas would wholeheartedly disagree. Working at, she says that it is all too common for older people to dismiss the "MTV generation" as lacking concentration and wherewithal, as being team-oriented but bereft of individual ideas, and as being hopelessly addicted to the hive.

The relentless multitasking and interactivity are "just a different way of doing things," Ms. Roxas said, recalling that even as an undergraduate she would often seek help and counsel among her peers through instant messages on her computer. "I actually got more done that way," she said, "and I always knew when to sign off and get my work done.
"It's no different than eating and watching TV at the same time."

But when asked if she might ever be able to really disconnect for a while, Ms. Roxas paused and then laughed at herself. To really unplug, while an attractive idea in theory, she said, would be to risk being swept aside by a virtual torrent of information - or, worse, being forgotten.

The television and film industries, like the recording industry before them, are slowly recognizing that consumers - particularly young ones like Mr. Hanson - want to watch on their own schedules, in a variety of formats, and at a low price.

Clearly, if the market doesn't find ways to make programming simple, inexpensive and legal to download, millennials will continue to find solutions for themselves.

"Downloading is the poor man's TiVo," Mr. Hanson said in e-mail message, adding, though, that if he likes a show he generally goes out and buys it on DVD.

As if heeding the call, ABC, NBC and cable networks have found a new outlet by striking deals that make television shows available for $1.99 a download on Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store, for playback on the new video-capable iPod or on a personal computer. Steven P. Jobs, Apple's chief executive, said this month that the company had sold eight million videos and television shows online since October.

Still, such convergence is in its infancy. And aside from CBS's reported plans for a short "mobisoap" video drama, written exclusively for delivery on cellphones, original content for platforms other than television is rarer still.

But the writing is even on Hollywood's wall.

In November, as if to nudge the entire industry, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences rather hurriedly introduced a new Emmy award for "outstanding content distributed via nontraditional delivery platforms."