the-treachery-of-images-this-is-not-a-pipe-1948-magrittePerception is reality.

Change is the only constant.

Adapt or die.

The simplicity of these phrases is powerful.  But they belie a greater complexity.

There is perception and reality.

Some things don’t change.

Death, like adaptation, is a transitive state, not a permanent one.

I’m going to write more about this topic soon.  Stay tuned…

A Judge’s Scorecard: “Lights. Camera. Help.” 2014 #Film Frenzy

lch logoI had the great honor of being one of three celebrity, community judges for 2014 Reel Change Film Frenzy this evening.

Up to this point, the closest I’ve come to celebrity (other than having a Wikipedia entry) is purely associative, perhaps the greatest of which was being in the inaugural class of the Austin Under 40 Awards, in which Mike Judge, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Dell were also among the 25 inducted.

I showed to receive my award…they did not.  (Something about Emmys, French bike races, and self-immolating laptop batteries was muttered in each respective case, as I recall.)

But, back to the #FilmFrenzy…

My fellow judges and I watched 10 short films (the mandated max running length was 8 minutes), along with a sold-out audience at the shiny new-ish Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane.  We each scored in the following broad categories:

  1. Call to action
  2. Creativity, story, emotional connection
  3. Film craft, cinematography, sound

At the end of all 10, we three judges huddled in the hallway and, after briefly comparing our favorites, quickly concluded that the only one that finished in the top three for all of us for Pug Rescue of Austin.  It was funny, touching, well-paced, with solid sound and film work, and with interesting, readable titles and credits.

But, what we didn’t say was that we each had a different top favorite.  So, without further delay, here are excerpts of my judges comments:

  • Austin History Center: some great “insider” shots of the archives; would have loved more scenes other than downtown Austin; really liked use of old B&W photos in the closing sequence – very strong
  • Driving a Senior: the running length was long for my taste, but I give the team huge props for working in a narrative story…a very challenging decision that they executed impressively in such short time
  • Ecorise: some of the musical tracks were distracting and it felt a bit dialog-heavy to me, lacking a strong call to action; yet, film sequences of the kids outside and telling their stories was some of the strongest shown
  • Mariposa Pathway: the mix of motion graphics and action was nicely done; loved the butterfly sequences
  • Seedling Foundation: this was my overall favorite…I felt like the pacing was spot on; the film, sound, and titles were really strong; the call to action was powerful — I just loved it!
  • TALA: the filmmaker’s story was the perfect choice to illustrate the nonprofit’s value proposition
  • Truth Be Told: I had the strongest emotional reaction to this one; it was also in my top 3; really, really well-crafted film-making, powerful story-telling, beautifully done end credits — I loved this one too!
  • Umlauf Sculpture Gardens: some gorgeously done sequences of the sculpture garden (including night time rain – kudos team!) and awesome archival footage of the artist…reminded me to frequent this city treasure
  • VSA Texas: loved-loved-loved the beginning and ending sequence at Long Center…great choices for spokespeople, with a strong call to action

Congratulations to every one of the film makers who contributed their time, money and creative souls to producing these timeless works.  Good on you!

And special “thank you” to Aaron Bramley and David Neff (executive director and LCH founder/board member, respectively) for inviting me to participate.

Music Videos by GettingRich Productions

getting_rich_productions_logoMy youngest son Andrew has zeroed in on his calling: music video directing and producing.

He’s just 21 but has been cutting his teeth and has his first two videos wrapped.

His latest effort is called “Teenager on Drugs.” 

The rap has a powerful message, especially that last minute.  Andrew collaborated with the musician on the story, then directed, filmed, and edited the project.

His first full-length project was “Her Words.”  It was shot at the multiplex theater and mall across from Barton Creek Mall, just before it was demolished.  Again, Andrew directed, filmed, and edited the project.

He also hauled the gear, made the props and effects, and created video channels for the musicians.

If you’d like to see his photography / Photoshop work or his motion graphics / video animation work, you can find them on his Tumblr.

It took awhile to find his calling…he tried corporate videos, one-minute software commercials, live conference recordings, and more!  While they all contributed to the learning process, I believe he’s finally found his niche.

So, if you need a music video, connect with him on LinkedIn, to get his contact info!

Year of the E-Christmas

This year, 2013, was definitely the year of E-Christmas in our household:  E-cards, E-commerce, and E-entertainment.

We got more e-cards (like those below), from companies and people than ever before.  E-commerce (Amazon, in particular) was the preferred source for nearly 1/3 of the gift purchases.  And E-entertainment – i.e, digital media – was a common, favorite distraction, from mobile app games to Roku streaming movies.

Merry Corporate Christmas 2013

It will be interesting to see if a nostalgic backlash starts to take shape in 2014.  Seems like there will always be demand for printed, handwritten cards, unique gifts from local merchants, and old-fashioned family entertainment like board games and outdoor hikes!

Think[box]: The Maker Movement’s Future

IMG_5322In September, I visited my son Ben in Cleveland. He is a 2012 graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he received his Bachelor’s with a double major in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

(That’s Ben in glasses, troubleshooting a question by other son, Andrew.)

During his college studies, Ben had a full-time internship every summer, each time with different companies, from start-up innovative gear makers to billion-dollar industrial parts makers.  But, he bypassed all of those employers and more when he accepted an offer to stay in Cleveland working at the University.

Why? Because, quite simply, he’s got the coolest job you could ever want being a newly minted mechanical engineering grad, as the inaugural manager of a brand new public-private “maker” lab at Case Western called Think[box].

IMG_5320In case you’ve missed it, the “maker movement” phenomenon is about a decade-old, resurgence in American industrial design and manufacturing know-how, kindling the spirit and curiosity of a new generation of hands-on creators like Ben.

Made popular by Maker Faire and Make magazine, the maker movement’s sandbox has been a series of mostly community-driven, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) maker labs, more recently professionalized by the Techshop chain.

What sets Think[box] apart, however, is the comprehensive nature of its vision.  First, it’s filled with a tremendous array of gear: 3D printers, laser cutters, numerically controlled routers, and much, much more.

IMG_5318All of this gear and technical assistance (from staff like Ben and student interns) is available at no charge to students and the general public.

Indeed, Ben tells me that a little-known fact is that Think[box] will run anyone’s project, e.g., a 3D printed prototype, no matter where they live, as long as they supply the ready-to-go CAD files and pay for the materials & shipping.

IMG_5321Second, Think[box] funders expect to break ground in 2014 on a seven-story building that will be fully dedicated to all-things Think[box] – teaching and workshop space; incubating and accelerating startups; design, manufacturing, and assembly staging; offices and more.

Their ambitious goal is to rapidly rise to the level of MIT’s Media Lab, at least in the mechanical, maker space.  It’s an exciting place to be – literally a playground of ideas.

IMG_5314I couldn’t help but break out some of the brainstorming materials from the ideation station on the day I was there.

You can see the mess I made, cobbling together a small-scale, rough model of a mechanical art installation I had as an idea for the 2014 ArtPrize competition.  One word: Nerdtastic!

Complain, by King’s X

kingsx 15 coverI love this band. They’re from Houston, but have played all over the world.

They’ve been named by their musician peers among the 100 Great Rock Bands of the 20th century, in Rolling Stone magazine.

They’ve all spoken openly about their personal faith, although they reject labeling as a Christian band.

Whenever I get a little put upon by the first-world problems of my comfortable, privileged life, I just turn on “Complain” and King’s X helps me regain my perspective.

Ozone disappearing in the sky.
Bud man asking us “why ask why?”
If I could find my magazine this bug would die.
I complain.

China boy standing up to a tank.
Southern boy living in the house of yanks.
I can’t seem to get my motorbike to crank.
I complain.

Complain so much easier.
Complain so much easier.
Complain so much

Small kid begging for a crumb of bread.
Next kid bloated, lying nearly dead.
I wonder what to take for my aching head.
I complain.

Lots of people crying for a little rain.
Whole nation learning how to live with pain.
I don’t know how I’m gonna clean this little stain.
I complain.

Complain so much easier.
Complain so much easier.
Complain so much

Black man singing Mississippi blues.
Africa starves, a little baby drools.
I’m trying to figure out all these basketball rules.
I complain.

Mr. Rush Limbaugh giving me the facts.
Treetops falling and the newsman yaks.
I’m thinking about Carter and how I’m gonna be taxed.

Complain so much easier.
Complain so much easier.
Complain so much

My Kickstarter Pledges

I’ve participated in four Kickstarter campaigns to date, for which I spent $1,368 total.  Based upon this modest dataset, here are my observations:

  • The popularity of a campaign in no way assures its success.
  • Products that are first-time-to-market, at scale, are (…surprise!) likely to be flawed and perform poorly, if at all.  Actually, when you think about it, that shouldn’t really be a surprise.
  • Creative works delivered in conventional media (books, recordings, film, paintings, etc.) will “perform” but their performance will only be as good as the creative talent behind them.  Thus, the workmanship risk you are taking isn’t on the packaging or product “operation” but on the creative quality that imbues it.
  • A service is more likely to deliver a better experience, because the campaign producer can augment it, right down to the last moment.
  • And – proving the cliché “some things never change” – proven product or service innovators are safer bets than first-time innovators.

Name: The Porthole kickstarter - porthole

Description: A simple and beautiful infusion vessel that can be used for cocktails, oils, teas, or any infusion imaginable.

Goal: $28,500 Pledged: $736,112 Backers: 4,270

Funded: Sept 4, 2012

My pledge level: $175 for TWO black Portholes along with a seasonal cocktail recipe from the Aviary. US shipping included. Estimated delivery, Oct 2012

Experience Summary: It was delayed multiple times, arrived a year late, leaks profusely no matter how much or little we adjust the device.  It’s visually lovely, but a complete failure functionally.  It currently adorns our kitchen counter as an empty display.  We’ve discussed putting layers of colored sand in it for display or maybe making it the most fashionable ant farm ever outside of Toys R Us.

Name: Embracing Disruption kickstarter - embracing

Description: A manifesto about disruptive innovation and the cloud revolution.

Goal: $5,000 Pledged: $5,886 Backers: 64

Funded: Nov 9, 2012

My pledge level: $128 for SILVER LEVEL SPONSORSHIP: Your name, business, and twitter handle listed as Silver Level Sponsor in the back of our book, ebook, and website. + T-Shirt Level + Four Book Level + Sticker Pack Level + Early Access Level.  Estimated delivery, Mar 2013

Experience Summary: I knew Nathan and had collaborated on blog post with him previously, so I knew that he was a technical talent.  He and his co-authors delivered what they said they would, when they would.  The electronic copy was available on time, with the printed copies received a month later.

We are especially pleased that the team made the product available to others via an open source distribution strategy, via the Embracing Disruption website.  A satisfying conclusion that we were happy to support.

Name: Light Wing Trainer: Impossibly light Tyvek paper shoes kickstarter - lightwing

Description: Unbelievable Testing Laboratory has created Tyvek® paper shoes weighing in at 150g.

Goal: $15,000 Pledged: $142,197 Backers: 2,178

Funded: Aug 1, 2013

My pledge level: $65 for LIGHT WING 2nd MOVERS – Despite being a bit slow, we have an awesome deal for you, you are still able to grab a pair our limited edition shoes! Get yourself one pair of limited edition LIGHT WING PENCILs. (Suggested Retail: $68). We will also throw in one Tyvek wallet. Estimated delivery, Aug 2013

Experience Summary: After providing after converting my American size shoe to match up with the Chinese manufacturing, the shoes delivered were still too tight by a half-size or more; plus, they make a squeaky, rustling sound like you are walking around in newspaper, when you have them on.

I gave them to my daughter, who has tinier feet and is cooler than me.  I figure she’ll use them to shuffle around in doing garden work.

The whole thing reminded me of the flower-child, crafty projects of the 1960s. A laudable idea, but one that probably won’t be commercially ready until the 3rd or 4th iteration.  I wouldn’t recommend the shoes to anyone, except for the pure novelty factor.

Name: The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint IMG_5122

Description: Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of “Blacula”).

Goal: $1,250,000 Pledged: $1,418,910 Backers: 6,421

Funded: Aug 21, 2013

My pledge level: $1,000 for You Will Be An Extra In Our Film. Estimated delivery, Sept 2014.

Experience Summary:  Awesome, through and through.  I got to spend most of a day on set with Spike Lee, took direction from him, watched him in action set up and film multiple shots, took multiple photos with him, took a slow, hour-long private tour of his 40 Acres and a Mule studio in Brooklyn.

It was worth every penny!! The one slightly unnerving moment was that within days of the project funding, I received a notice that the filming would be within weeks!  But, the timing all worked out, with the help of a little vacation time and some airline frequent flyer miles.

The actual film, currently titled “The Sweet Blood of Jesus” is in post-production with a release expected in 2014.  If you see me, it’ll be in the Martha’s Vineyard bar scene near the beginning of the movie.

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