Monthly Archives: February 2011

Predictions for 2011 Academy Awards

Think what you will of awards shows but I love the Academy Awards for one simple reason: I derive great enjoyment in predicting the outcome. For me it’s the equivalent of making stock trades (which I average a 26% return for the years I’ve been trading and 33% this past year). It requires strategy, a compendium of knowledge, and an understanding for the human condition to do it well. The question is not who should win but who will win and the winning “formula” is a combination of who has won and been nominated for Oscars in the past, who has won at the Golden Globes and other awards ceremonies, the demographics of the voting members of the Academy (which is around 6,000 members and an average age of 50 years old), preferences of influential film critics and groups, unique qualities of the nominees (for example, in the past decade, 8 out of the 10 winning Leading Actresses have been between the ages of 26-40) and what I consider the “esprit de corps” or current public sentiment of the population (I think people genuinely wanted to see James Cameron lose to his ex-wife).

So without further adieu, the envelope please…

LEADING ACTOR: Colin Firth

No surprises here. Firth deserves it. He should have won for A Single Man.

LEADING ACTRESS: Natalie Portman

I loved The Black Swan despite it’s kooky and amateurish hallucinations. It was beautifully shot and kept me intrigued throughout it’s concise 108 minutes and although Annette Benning won Best Actress in a Comedy Film at the Golden Globes, Portman won for Drama, is preggers (I think  this does factor in) and is younger (Hollywood decisively prefers younger over older Leading actresses, unless you’re Meryl Streep).

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale

He’s mesmerizing in The Fighter. No contest.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Melissa Leo

Out of the four prime acting categories, this is the one in which I’m least confident only because I haven’t seen True Grit nor Animal Kingdom, but Melissa Leo won the Golden Globe and I was genuinely surprised when I did an internet search on her (an image speaks a thousand words) to discover she’s not a working class, chain-smoking actress from Lowell, Massachusetts. I doubt another Precious/Monique “monster” character (Jackie Weaver in Animal Kingdom) who is the other favorite, will win here.

BEST DIRECTING and BEST PICTURE: David Fincher, The Social Network

This is the most hotly contested category. All indicators are pointing towards the Weinstein-produced, The King’s Speech, with Tom Hooper winning the Director’s Guild Award for outstanding directorial achievement in feature film which is the strongest predictor of Best Director winner at the Oscars. Best Direction and Best Picture historically go hand-in-hand and I believe the trend will continue this year. Even though Fincher and Network won at the Golden Globes, a light survey of Academy voters is favoring The King’s Speech and Hooper. I can’t blame them. The acting ensemble is impeccable: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce? All superb. If I was a safe betting woman, I’d go with The King’s Speech and Tom Hooper. But I’m not. The Academy is notorious for “the upset” – at least one category that shocks the populist view, aka the Black Swan Event (not to be confused with delusional, sexually curious ballerinas). Believe me, no one saw Shakespeare in Love beating out Saving Private Ryan, so this is my upset play. I obviously have a bias here, as evidence of the fact that I’ve written twice (here and here) about The Social Network. I’m expecting The King’s Speech to win but to bet on The King’s Speech is to play it safe and I believe the greatest rewards involve an element of risk so I’m going with the movie about a computer geek.

I won’t go into my other 18 predictions but will say a purple nurple is on the line between me and @robotchampion for the losing party. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts, methods and “algorithms” for predicting the winners. I’d also love to see Watson get into the awards-predicting game…

Can I Be Your Trusted Friend?

The following is an un-edited letter I sent to a friend, similar to the one on Processed Foods. It represents a set of personal beliefs developed through experience, failure, and success. While I believe much of this to be dead-on there is much to disagree with. I welcome an open debate:)

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For thousands of years humans lived easily without ADD and ADHD “diseases.” It’s not that these symptoms didn’t exist rather it is that our lifestyles have changed. There is an increasing focus of daily life on controlled seated conditions for an ever increasing amount of people. This is a relatively new environment for humans and our culture has not yet learned how to function in it.

There are basic skills one can learn to alleviate the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, that if not taught by adulthood lead to destructive habits. The foundation of these skills is helping the individual to become self aware. Creating a sense of when things are normal and when they are not. Once that recognition can happen a series of coping mechanisms can be put into play. More on that later, but first some more background.

ADD as a problem (and not a disease) has been studied and worked on for decades in the field of education. The Montessori school system has developed a method of teaching that they believe is superior to public education, while also helping to alleviate the problems of ADHD. Of course their schools are only as effective as the parents allow it to be. Parents are a major problem in education because they often endured harsh conditions without learning these skills and expect their children to endure as well, though for much longer (college and graduate school).

The real battle in our public schools is not over testing but over new teaching styles. To improve the quality of our education we need to teach our students better. School testing is only a measure of how effective these new styles are. The most effective styles to date ironically focus on alleviating the root causes of ADHD, things like group work, outdoor activities, large projects with structured tasks, etc.

Understanding this history in American education helps explain some key issues involved with ADHD, namely culture, environment, and adults. For a child we can help to control all three and make the process of dealing with ADHD easier. For an adult the process is like hardened cement, only making progress through blasting old concrete and recasting new pieces.

Back to the original “cure.” The first step is to become self aware. Doing this often requires a trusted friend. One who can tell the person that they are exhibiting the behavior. It is hard on both parties to develop this routine since ADHD manifests itself in many ways, through boredom, anxiety, depression, over-excitement, and most importantly the individual is unaware of their own behavior. With practice and experience this becomes easily explained and noticed.

The second step is to develop a range of support tactics to employ when suffering an attack. This involves the individual being self aware of the issue and then selecting the right tactic, or trying several until one helps. The tactics can be anything from taking a long walk to reading a magazine. They are entirely situational and often require a fair amount of practice. They act like a bridge where one side is normal and the other side is normal. ADHD acts like the river in the middle always ready to sidetrack and take you away through panic, anxiety, or whatever. Having a bridge allows one to cope during the attack, let it subside, and then safely arrive at normal again.

ADHD is not the scourge of the modern world. It is a problem in our society that only a few truly understand, the rest suffer from it. To fix it requires a simple yet focused set of skills applied over time with another trusted individual. For children this trusted individual is often the parents or a teacher. For an adult it is a boyfriend, friend, or coworker. For those without any of these people it is a drug addiction.

DC Art and Inspiration

Yesterday, I purchased the first piece of art that will belong to the “1×57 collection” – art dedicated to the precepts of 1×57: innovation, inspiration and social value creation. It’s a whimsical creation by Maggie O’Neill, who I consider one of the most talented artists in the DC area. I discovered her through, wait for it, Facebook. She’s a friend of friends and as soon as I saw her work, I friended her. I quickly discovered she’s the mastermind of some of the most stylishly decorated and designed restaurants in DC, from Oya to SEI to the soon-to-be opened Lincoln.

Steve and I made a visit to her studio in Kensington, MD and Maggie’s talent is unmistakeable. She paints and creates with such a vision for life, light, color and texture, it was easy to fall in love with the painting that’s now hanging over our office work table. It’s a rendering of the Capitol building and when I look at it, I see the ideals and energy of liberty, of people and values as varied, mixed and diverse as a painter’s color palette, but with an overlaying foundation of democracy that unites and elevates us all. There’s also a fun secret hidden within the painting which compelled me to name the piece, “The Cover-up.”

Capitol Cover-up

More important than it’s pure aesthetic appeal, the piece is reminder of my most favorite period of art history, the shift from a formal, non-secular, constrained style of painting (the Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical periods) to Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, which completely turned the world on it’s head. When the group of artists now known as Impressionists came onto the Paris art scene, they were viewed as seditious, crude and a threat to the very existence of traditional art.

A fraction of the group were deemed “Intrasigents” – an expression that borrowed it’s name from the radical political party that attempted to overthrow the constitutional monarchy in Spain. Now these revolutionaries – Monet, Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso – are known as some of the most talented, revered and brilliant artists in the world.

So a big thanks to Maggie for making DC such a beautiful place to live and a bigger thanks to all the artists, creators and visionaries of the world for challenging the status quo and inspiring the unimaginable.

A Guide to DC’s Environmental Film Festival

Kieran Timberlake: The Loblolly House

I love movies. The only thing better than movies is a film festival full of them. In the last few years I’ve become a regular film festival attendee (see my Sundance Festival Guide).

It was with some surprise then to learn that DC has its very own film festival. A major event that is possibly the best of its kind in the world, the Environmental Film Festival.

It runs from March 15-27 and presents 150 films at 60 venues, with an expected attendance of 26,000 filmgoers.

What makes any festival interesting is the sense of discovery where you find yourself watching a movie you would never otherwise see. And, that film will most likely never again be in your local theater or even on Netflix. They are works of art that while good enough to be selected at film festivals, will never make it into the studio circuit of big budgets, posters, and red carpets.

Being in DC is uniquely special as well since the city produces a huge amount of documentaries. I once heard a friend at the DC Film Institute joke that we are not Hollywood but Docu-wood.

The subject of this year’s festival is Energy, but I noticed several other topics just as interesting: the chesapeake bay, architecture, lectures by professors, nuclear waste, short films, and adventures in cold places.

Where Whales Sing

After looking through the list of films I quickly realized that I want to see them all. With over 60 movies making the first cut as “must-sees”. My festival instincts kicked in as I reminded myself that every movie was chosen because it is worth seeing.

The wise option then is to choose my absolute favorites:

The next step is to plan out my 12 day schedule. This process helped me a bit to narrow down my schedule to just 21 movies. Leaving room for a day job and food but little else.

Here is the full list (with links). I hope a few of these tickle your fancy and you end up attending one or two. Leave a comment about your experiences or if you need someone to go with (because I sure do!).

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects

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Mar 15

Wasteland and Wilderness: Lecture by Peter L. Galison – 5:30pm

The Polar Explorer – 8pm

Mar 16

Mission Blue – 7:30pm

Oil Rocks – City Above The Sea – 7pm

Mar 17

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – 7pm

Mar 18

El Muro – 6:30pm

Mar 19

Into Eternity – 1pm

Mar 20

Kieran Timberlake: Loblolly House – 1pm

Countdown To Zero – 6:30pm

Mar 21

World Water Day: Global Water and Population Films and Panels – 6pm

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects – 7pm

Mar 22

Where Whales Sing – 10:30am

An Evening With Chris Palmer – 7pm

Mar 23

Short Films on the Chesapeake: The Last Boat Out, The Runoff Dilemma, Watermen, & Sturgeon: Eggs To Die For – 6pm

Mar 24

Planeat – 7:30pm

Mar 25

We Still Live Here: As Nutayunean – 7pm

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air – 7pm

Mar 26

I.M. Pei – Building Modern China - 2pm

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – 3pm

Mar 27

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization – 3pm

A Murder of Crows – 1pm

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

A Guide to DC's Environmental Film Festival

Kieran Timberlake: The Loblolly House

I love movies. The only thing better than movies is a film festival full of them. In the last few years I’ve become a regular film festival attendee (see my Sundance Festival Guide).

It was with some surprise then to learn that DC has its very own film festival. A major event that is possibly the best of its kind in the world, the Environmental Film Festival.

It runs from March 15-27 and presents 150 films at 60 venues, with an expected attendance of 26,000 filmgoers.

What makes any festival interesting is the sense of discovery where you find yourself watching a movie you would never otherwise see. And, that film will most likely never again be in your local theater or even on Netflix. They are works of art that while good enough to be selected at film festivals, will never make it into the studio circuit of big budgets, posters, and red carpets.

Being in DC is uniquely special as well since the city produces a huge amount of documentaries. I once heard a friend at the DC Film Institute joke that we are not Hollywood but Docu-wood.

The subject of this year’s festival is Energy, but I noticed several other topics just as interesting: the chesapeake bay, architecture, lectures by professors, nuclear waste, short films, and adventures in cold places.

Where Whales Sing

After looking through the list of films I quickly realized that I want to see them all. With over 60 movies making the first cut as “must-sees”. My festival instincts kicked in as I reminded myself that every movie was chosen because it is worth seeing.

The wise option then is to choose my absolute favorites:

The next step is to plan out my 12 day schedule. This process helped me a bit to narrow down my schedule to just 21 movies. Leaving room for a day job and food but little else.

Here is the full list (with links). I hope a few of these tickle your fancy and you end up attending one or two. Leave a comment about your experiences or if you need someone to go with (because I sure do!).

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects

—-

Mar 15

Wasteland and Wilderness: Lecture by Peter L. Galison – 5:30pm

The Polar Explorer – 8pm

Mar 16

Mission Blue – 7:30pm

Oil Rocks – City Above The Sea – 7pm

Mar 17

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – 7pm

Mar 18

El Muro – 6:30pm

Mar 19

Into Eternity – 1pm

Mar 20

Kieran Timberlake: Loblolly House – 1pm

Countdown To Zero – 6:30pm

Mar 21

World Water Day: Global Water and Population Films and Panels – 6pm

Vincent Scully: An Art Historian Among Architects – 7pm

Mar 22

Where Whales Sing – 10:30am

An Evening With Chris Palmer – 7pm

Mar 23

Short Films on the Chesapeake: The Last Boat Out, The Runoff Dilemma, Watermen, & Sturgeon: Eggs To Die For – 6pm

Mar 24

Planeat – 7:30pm

Mar 25

We Still Live Here: As Nutayunean – 7pm

Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air – 7pm

Mar 26

I.M. Pei – Building Modern China - 2pm

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga – 3pm

Mar 27

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization – 3pm

A Murder of Crows – 1pm

Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

The Future of the Queue

For the 5th Ignite DC, Steve submitted a proposal. It was accepted and he was asked to present at the event. Below are the full text of the proposal and a video of the talk.

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Proposal

Have you been to an Apple store lately and noticed that nobody is queuing?

Their are no cash registers, no counter, and no cashier. Just a large group of over-friendly employees hanging out talking geek. When you want to buy something they pull out an iPhone to charge your card and print a receipt. Then a magical stockperson appears from the “back” with your new device.

Apple is the first retail operation to make the switch to mobile cashiers. But what happens if this catches on elsewhere…no more waiting for the check at restaurants and maybe no more of those creepy crawly slow lines?

A deep dive into this technology shows that smartphones are taking over. Who knows where this will go. Will the people be replaced by apps? Will mobile cashiers now be wandering around with devices the size of Zack Morris 1980s cell phone?

With all the reports of micro sales in the 100s of millions from paypal to apple to facebook, something is definitely up. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, actually left Twitter to start his own micro payment company (square).

Join me as I explore this new technology and what it means, from the death of queuing to the self-serve starbucks and possibly the removal of all human interaction from our daily lives…

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Talk

I Too Was Raised On Processed Foods…

The following is a response to an email asking me about food, health, and nutrition.  The initial email is included at bottom and the person’s name has been excised.

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Hey #### – thanks for reaching out to me.

I too was raised on processed foods and so a lot of this was new to me as well. The best piece of advice I can give you is to give it some time. I have helped a lot of people make the change and they are always shocked and surprised by where this path takes them.

For instance, the food sold in supermarkets is the worst kind you can buy. The only thing worse than them is something like hot dogs from 7-Eleven, but in terms of nutritional value they’re not much worse. This includes the produce as well.

There are a whole lot of reasons why this is true like they have a monopoly on the food supply and a need to make profits, so quality is forgotten in favor of quantity. Thankfully the folks behind our food system are rallying together. There is a resurgence in quality seeds, quality farming, and improving distribution systems to get us this food.

The difference between a quality food product and a supermarket one is dramatic. This study which delves deeply into the details found a 1:3 difference. Meaning that a high-quality seed can be 3x more nutritional than a low-quality seed.

Personally, I find it greater than that. The food that I buy is so high quality that I eat very little and have so much more energy. I would say it’s more like a 1:6 or something. I often joke that I buy so little food nowadays that I often splurge on things just because.

This quality food has yet to break into the supermarkets, not even Whole Foods is carrying it yet. We are still stuck in the race to offer the cheapest food we can, though some stores are focusing on improving quality. Which means the only “safe” place to find quality is at farmers markets or food co-operatives.

I can say that I shop twice a week at a farmers market and never shop at supermarkets (tho I do occasionally buy beans/rice from the open bulk bins at Whole Foods). It does take some time to learn a whole new set of routines but that is the ideal if you want to really improve your health, here is why.

The food industry spends a lot of money trying to include nutritional information about food. The trouble is that no two apples are alike. One picked when ripe will be much different than one picked weeks after that. To account for this they just make it up (i.e. educated guesses). More and more studies are coming out showing just how wrong these nutrition labels are. Here is one that shows how vitamins are more marketing than science.

The truth about nutrition is different than what most people think. Every food item has a ton of vitamins/minerals/carbs/fat/etc. For example, Broccoli contains varying amounts of the following:

Protein, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Selenium, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.

The question is how much of each does it have. Well, for plant based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts) that depends on the starting seed (high, low quality stock) how it is grown (to produce maximum nutrition or to be picked quickly) and when/how it is harvested (at peak times or a few days/weeks early).

With all this variability in farming a single item of broccoli could either contain all you need or nothing at all. This holds true for every single food item out there.

So back to the beginning. Supermarkets sell the lowest quality food they can find (to offer the lowest prices). Farmers markets offer the highest quality they can find (often at higher prices).

The question then for most people is what happens if they switch from low quality to high quality food? Will they spend more or eat less? Are supermarkets just too convenient or is my health worth the trip to a farmers markets?

Steve

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Hi Steve,
You commented on a post here back in April

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

I’m new to healthy eating and haven’t really got a clue what I’m doing, I’ve been pretty much raised on processed foods but have recently decided to learn to cook and educate myself about nutrition. Though I’m in the early stages of transforming my diet and way of life I’ve noticed that a lot of foods that are purportedly healthy, turn out to be not so great. I want to gather as much info on nutrition as possible in order to make the right dietary choices so any info you could send my way would be greatly, greatly appreciated. You also mentioned studies into supermarket food quality which I would be very interested in reading. Thanks for your time Steve, hope you can help.

Kindest regards,
#####

[photo: denn]

Best Lines of Business Advice: Valentine’s Day Tribute

Despite all my feminist rantings, I’ve had some awesome men and mentors in my life help shape my business/professional choices. So here is a Valentine’s Day tribute to the ones who stand out in my mind most:

Cal: The network is smarter than the expert.”

Dr. Carrier: Don’t fear snakes. A snake is predictable as long as you know s/he is a snake.”Dr. Carrier: Don’t fear opposition. If someone or something comes out swinging against you, it’s because you threaten them.” Sandy: Relationships carry far more weight in business and life then skills or expertise.”Deryle: There is no such thing as job security. The corporation/institution will get rid of you as soon as you don’t provide value. If you’re good, you’re good. If the corporation values you, so will others. Don’t be afraid to go out and do it on your own. Invest in yourself.”

Steve: You will find a million reasons not to do the thing you must do the most. Stop making excuses.”

Best Lines of Business Advice: Valentine's Day Tribute

Despite all my feminist rantings, I’ve had some awesome men and mentors in my life help shape my business/professional choices. So here is a Valentine’s Day tribute to the ones who stand out in my mind most:

Cal: The network is smarter than the expert.”

Dr. Carrier: Don’t fear snakes. A snake is predictable as long as you know s/he is a snake.”Dr. Carrier: Don’t fear opposition. If someone or something comes out swinging against you, it’s because you threaten them.” Sandy: Relationships carry far more weight in business and life then skills or expertise.”Deryle: There is no such thing as job security. The corporation/institution will get rid of you as soon as you don’t provide value. If you’re good, you’re good. If the corporation values you, so will others. Don’t be afraid to go out and do it on your own. Invest in yourself.”

Steve: You will find a million reasons not to do the thing you must do the most. Stop making excuses.”