Saturday, November 06, 2010

I Was Wrong



I was proud recently to participate in Razorfish New York's own "It Gets Better" video, part of the series initated by Dan Savage's effort.

I had some notes I referred to and understandably, with so many involved, a lot had to be edited out for the video to be edited tightly. I'm posting them here in case they help anyone to see that you can change your mind on this issue. My notes then, somewhat updated for clarity's sake:

- I grew up within a belief system that wasn't very tolerant to gay people or gay rights
- In my early 20s, I attended a very conservative college where these beliefs were reinforced, daily
- I was talking with a friend one day when I made a very nasty remark about gay people
- It was so inappropriate, I don't even want to repeat it today
- He replied, you mean people like my brother?
- That really took me back because I was confronted with the reality of his brother's existence instead of whatever stereotype of a gay person I had in my head
- That began a process of thinking for me and as the years went by and after a lot of reading, I became a supporter of gay rights
- If you're watching this and you disagree with me about gay rights, please do challenge yourself to read up on the subject - and especially challenge yourself to read the thoughts and opinions of people who disagree with you
- If you're watching this and you're a young gay person, please know that people can and do change their opinions on this issue. I did
- Also, I know many gay people who grew up in environments that were unkind to gay people and they're doing fine now. I work with many such talented and intelligent people every day
- Things really do get better

I also wrote a post several years ago, which tells the story I allude to above more explicitly. I ain't proud of it.

If I could make one suggestion to Dan Savage to add his project, it'd be this: How about a channel for straight people, explaining why they concluded they were wrong about their beliefs and how they came to be gay rights supporters.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SpiritDay 2010



In solidarity with all my gay and lesbian friends.

USA Today - Youths, adults sign on to wear purple, support gay teens
GLAAD - Tools for supporting SpiritDay

Monday, October 18, 2010

Subway Poem 15

To behold actual human zombies
Simply stand at the edge of a New York City subway platform
Then watch them shamble towards you
Hurrying to insert themselves between you and the oncoming train
Arms flailing, legs awkwardly flapping
They must. Reach. The vessel.
As the doors slide open, they crash by you
And into the carriage ahead of you
Collapsing through the exiting citizenry
To seize a seat or a position
To be first
Pity the frail human in their way

10/18/10

*this is my first subway poem actually published to the Web from the subway: as the B train crossed Manhattan Bridge

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Music for Wireframing

The right music can really help me get into flow while on working on something, especially when wireframing. Here's some of the stuff I listen to the most when wireframing, hand-picked to be less intrusive, but not all of it falling into ambient territory. Somewhat verified by my Last.fm profile. And in no particular order ...

1. Burial
2. Brian Eno
3. Hans Zimmer - Inception Soundtrack
4. Underworld
5. Cinematic Orchestra
6. Massive Attack
7. LCD Soundsystem
8. James Newton Howard - Michael Clayton Soundtrack
9. Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
10. Sigur Ros

Also: Fujiya & Miyagi, Hot Chip, UNKLE, Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Free Association - Code 46 Soundtrack

What are some of your favorites? Add 'em in comments.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Flying into JFK, 9/11/10

Flying into JFK, 9/11/10

Our descent slower than normal
Since the sky swarmed with planes
The houses of Queens blanket
The ground rising beneath us
Our craft thick with travelers
Accented voices burbling
German, English, Indian, Arab, Latin
A supple sampling of our boroughs.

When finally we fell to the ground
And began a long crawl to nuzzle the dock,
Manhattan's delicate silhouette 
Stretched westward for miles
Haloed by the flush of the setting sun
Though clouds lowered high above 
Waiting perhaps to descend.

And to the north,
So many aircraft lined up,
Drifting jaggedly towards earth
Like bright, white flares
Falling from the heavens.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Subway Poem 14

The D train stopped aloft the Manhattan Bridge
Just up the Brooklyn side of the hanger
A young woman slumped to the floor
A police officer on board would stand before her
As one woman traversed the carriage,
Looking for an emergency alarm
While another yelled, "Forget about it! Just forget about it!"
And there you had it
The entire human condition
Encapsulated in a steel tube
Hovering, hesitant over the East River

08/31/10

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Subway Story

I just saw the most astonishing thing I've seen in over 4 years riding the New York City subway.

As I boarded the train, one guy was yelling obscenities at and threatening another seated guy for 5 minutes; the rest of us staring on in amazement, me hoping security would arrive to interrupt him. The guy next to me sat with his head in his hands, seemingly to block out the noise. Finally, the first guy comes and sits down across from us with one of his friends, both of them drunk, still talking loudly and swearing.

Finally, the guy next to me looks up and speaks up. "Your day could be worse, you know. I just found out I have cancer." It's clear he isn't joking.

The two guys across from are silenced, literally dumbstruck. "I'm sorry, man," one of them eventually mutters.

"It's OK," says the guy next to me. "I'm just saying, your day could be worse. I went to the doctor today and he told me I probably have cancer." His eyes are red: he's been sitting there, hiding the fact that he's been crying. As he speaks, his voice starts shuddering, then his whole body is shaking and he's weeping. This was not remotely an act. It was pure, visceral emotion.

Both men across from me were completely silenced now. The train stops at 34th Street and the two get off, but not before each lays a hand on the guy's shoulder and says, "I'm sorry, man."

"It's OK," he says. "Just remember, your day could be worse."

He got off at Union Square. I followed him off. We went our separate ways.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Why Should a Muslim Community Center Be Built in Lower Manhattan?

After I linked to the twitter feed for the Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, where the center responds to its critics, a friend on Facebook asked me to explain "why the mosque SHOULD be built in this location as opposed to somewhere else, when clearly whatever side you are on it is a divisive thing?" My response follows.

I think it should be built there for a number of reasons:
  • Because it's not a mosque and it's not at Ground Zero, it's 4 blocks away
  • Because some folks have drummed up fear around this being a Mosque (false) at Ground Zero (also false) where it needn't exist, so why cave into them? The community center location wasn't a controversy until some very radical anti-Muslim individuals began to paint this fictitious version of what it is to be (more on the real origins of this debate here on Salon)
  • Because although saying it's insensitive and divisive for it to be there may be the most civilized argument being offered against it, that argument still sort of tacitly conflates Islam as practiced by this really pretty liberal Imam with the radical ultra-violent Islamicists, who attacked us on 9/11, as much for political reasons, as religious
  • It's not really insensitive for Rauf to place his community center there (even if it were a mosque) because he's been working in the Tribeca area of Lower Manhattan for about 20 years, a long time before 9/11 - this fact is never mentioned by the folks trying to describe it as a "victory mosque" or whatnot because it would undermine their theory about why it's being built in the first place
  • Rauf is precisely the sort if Imam Bin Laden *wouldn't* want building a mosque near Ground Zero because he stands against the violence of Bin Laden and actually encourage communication among the world's religions in ways Bin Laden would despise and denounce (read more about him here)
  • The Constitution - specifically freedom of religion and freedom of speech. It's precisely because we don't want to become like Saudi Arabia that we allow a religious center to be built near Ground Zero (along with all the other religious centers, shopping centers, bars, sex shops and strip clubs), even tho we may not agree with every single thing that's going to be said there. In this way, we say, Bin Laden, no, you don't win.
  • Many Muslims died in 9/11. They have as much right to grieve and memorialize the 9/11 event, as the rest of us Americans - a listing of Muslim victims on About.com
It's a sensitive subject, I know, so I appreciate that my friends on Facebook were able to engage in a civil conversation about it. But I think it's also a great opportunity for us all to engage in a great dialogue on the subject. It's the folks comparing Imam Rauf's building a community center to Nazis placing a sign at the Holocaust Museum - those folks aren't helping. (Looking at you New Gingrich!)

I think all the arguments above, by the way, can be made irrespective of political party or religious background.

So, in short: I don't think the center has to be built there either. But "there" isn't Ground Zero. And it ain't a mosque, but if it were, no big deal. We believe in freedom of religion. We don't throw in the towel or chuck out the Constitution because a bunch of nutjobs attacked us on 9/11. What an opportunity to prove that to the world.

I decided to post my thoughts on this subject here because I think this event has become a touchstone for so much of what's going on in the United States right now - especially in regards to 9/11, terrorism, and hostility towards Muslims and people of other religions and ethnicities - and I'd like to track my own thoughts on the subject.

Feel free to share your own in the comments.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Subway Poem 13

Standing at one end,
looking down the morning train,
as it emerges from its tunnel
onto the sunsplashed Manhattan Bridge.

The faces of these travelers,
largely calm, impassive,
as they align this carriage,
their bodies gently wavering,
like so many grassy stems in a subaquatic passage.

08/06/10

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

California's Historic Prop 8 Ruling

Congratulations to all those who have fought so hard for human rights in California and around the United States. This is truly an exciting and historic milestone.

Prop 8 Ruling FINAL

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ScienceBlog's Soda Pop Saga

I've got a new piece on Scatter/Gather, Razorfish's content strategy blog, about the Scienceblogs debacle, knowing your audience and transparency.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Subway Poem 12

Red riding hood sits slumped on the F Train,
No longer little nor lithe
That hood definitely protection
Against whatever wickedness she's weathered
Via the wolves of the world
Her eyes shut against the elements
Us

06/19/10

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tourists Keep Left



I know some outsiders found Jeff Greenspan's New Yorker/Visitors sidewalk lanes obnoxious but try working in Times Square and navigating the sidewalk crowds at lunchtime, and you'll be wanting your own lane too!

Although Improv Everywhere eventually helped with a prominent 5th Avenue version, Greenspan was eventually revealed as the original creator.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Subway Poem 11

The one F train driver
Her tones a calm, smoky jazz
You all have a good week, a lovely day, she says
And for once we think, yes, we will
Thanks to her
Believing in us

05/26/10

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Suspense!

Reading this Malcolm Gladwell piece on alcoholism and I realize what he has in common with the writers of Lost: the ability to withhold the tasty morsels you really want right now in order to create and maintain suspense.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Social Camp

The New Yorker reports folks are actually debating whether this YouTube video, entitled "That's Why I Chose Yale," is earnest or high camp. Presumably, it's a knowing attempt at a viral video, performed in the vein of Glee Club. One hopes anyway.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

- Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Constructive Action?

I was rather disappointed today to find that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees response to Sarah Palin's Tea Party speech was to ask people to sign a letter to Palin, which says the following, "We haven't forgotten that Republicans created this mess and we won't stand for your smears."

I learned this when the DCCC tweeted, "We just hit 20K signatures on our letter to Palin: 'We won't stand for your smears.' Help us hit 25K! http://bit.ly/9ZdPHw." To which I responded, "I'm no fan of Sarah Palin, @dccc, but does anyone really think signing a letter like this is going to help things? http://j.mp/cK4zI5." To me, the letter felt more like an exercise in futility than any sort of constructive response to Palin's agenda. (One of my friends on Twitter even responded, "If Palin won't read a newspaper, why do they think she'll read their letter?" Heh.)

To their credit, someone at the DCCC direct tweeted me the following earlier this evening: "Fair question. With our letter, we aim to send a clear message to the GOP that we will call them out for their false and outrageous attacks." I appreciated their answering me directly, but I still feel the brief, scabrous letter itself amounts to little more than returning a swipe from Palin with a swipe back. So I direct tweeted a message back to them, then posted the following only slightly reworded tweet: "Challenge to @dccc: Do something *constructive* with social media. Organize an answer to the Tea Partiers, demanding universal healthcare."

Then I visited their website and noticed a link to become a fan on Facebook. I did so and immediately posted the above challenge there, too. Again, to their credit, they quickly responded with the following, "We're always interested to hear our supporters' ideas. How would you organize an answer to the tea partiers?"

Given that Facebook allows for a more verbose response than Twitter, I shared a few thoughts to take them up on their question. Here's my response:
Thanks for your willingness to engage in dialogue. I understand that the DCCC is "the official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives," so I'm not sure how much you can do to organize a grassroots effort (and would it be a true grassroots effort if organized by the DCCC?), but I'm disappointed to see the DCCC organizing people to sign a letter to Sarah Palin, which does little more than call her out on her inflammatory rhetoric, when the Tea Partiers are organizing people to march on Washington, to spread all manner of disinformation about the President and universal healthcare, and meeting regularly in a continued effort to plan actual real world activity. Yet what has been the democratic response? I think many people who deeply believe in healthcare have grown despondent and disillusioned over the lack of progress on the issue.
I wouldn't necessarily know all the nuances of how to organize an in-the-streets movement on that scale, but you have almost 60,000 fans on Facebook and well over 11,000 followers on Twitter. That seems like a good start. There must be constructive things those people can do: to show up in public and challenge the Tea Partiers, show others that healthcare does represent the will of the people - and isn't just some "socialist" program Obama is trying to force on us.
Another constructive solution would be to create content that people could be encouraged to distribute on their blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, etc, that effectively - and diplomatically - refutes the misconceptions about healthcare (and other misinformation the Tea Partiers are spreading). Make it bulleted, easy to read, succinct. Encourage people to actively engage with the Tea Partiers on these issues - and to share that information with other Americans, too. Just yelling "you lie" to the Tea Partiers and to Palin may serve as an outlet for Progressive frustration, but it does nothing constructive.
The President set a good example for all us recently when he reached out the Republicans and firmly called them out on some of their behavior - but also invited them to dialogue. I'd like to think his request was genuine. We've got to do the same thing as individuals if we're to make any real progress. We've got to challenge people to think, challenge them with the facts. But we won't get their attention unless we focus on ways to do it constructively. Not just matching outbursts with outburts.
I wish you much luck to that end.
I do feel like there's a lot more constructive activity that could be generated vis social media, of course. That was just a hurried post to Facebook. Maybe we can get to brainstorming and working on such strategies, instead of just encouraging tens of thousands of folks to engage in what amounts to little more than a quick swipe at Wasilla's finest?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

5 Things a Corporation Can't Do

5 Things a Corporation Can't Do That a Human Being Can:
  • Produce a birth certificate
  • Enter into a same-sex marriage
  • Vote for elected officials
  • Fight to keep a mortgage and a roof over its family's head
  • Leave fingerprints or DNA at a crime scene
I'm referring, of course, to the Supreme Court's January 21st decision to allow companies the right to contribute to election campaigns, under the justification that doing otherwise would restrict their rights. In other words, conferring the rights of a human American individual upon a multi-million dollar corporation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Points of Interest: Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris

During our recent trip to Europe, I collected a slew of business cards from different places (restaurants, cafes, galleries, shops) we dropped into. Faced with filing these things away somewhere where I'd likely never see them again, I thought I'd enter them all here for other folks benefit, who may travel to The Netherlands, Belgium or France, too. So, it's by no means comprehensive, but here are some places worth checking out in the following countries and cities:

Antwerp, Belgium
  • Hotel Postiljon - small, clean, comfortable rooms - and bathrooms with no doors on them! But exceptionally close to the Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) - right behind it, in fact
Brugge, Belgium
  • Gran Kaffee de Passage, Dweersstraat 26-28 - excellent eating: tasty ribs and beer at this convivial restaurant in the ground floor of a hostel, believe it or not.
  • Hotel Cavalier, Kuiperstraat 25 - better looking on the outside or in the quaint cafe, than inside one of the rooms. Ours had a bed, which slanted downward to the head. Nonetheless, terrifically handy to everything in old Brugge.
Paris, France
  • La Flèche d'Or, 102 bis rue de Bagnolet - we had to walk a few blocks from the metro to find this music venue in a renovated train station, but we caught a good show with a faux-Irish punk Celtic band. Or something like that.
  • La Frégate, 1, rue du Bac angle 35 quai Voltaire - a typical French bistro in a sense, but with a stunning view of the Seine and the Louvre. Also: it's on on the site of the home of Marshal D’Artagnan, who inspired Dumas to write The Three Musketeeers.
  • Hotel Champ du Mars, 7 rue du Champ de Mars - tiny rooms, but it was well kept and close to the Eiffel Tower and other great walks
  • Lili's Brownie, 35 Rue Du Dragon - American-style brownies in, um, Paris
  • Mandalas, Artisanat du Tibet - across from our hotel on Champ du Mars, lovely jewelry from Tibet, about a block away from the Rue Cler market street
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • De Aardige Pers, 2e Hugo de grootstraat 13 B - it's a bit of a haul to get to this Iranian restaurant, but really worth it
  • Quinta - Nieuwe Leliestraat 4, across from Anne Frank House - tasteful wine and liquor shop where the proprietor provided an informative and impassioned homily on absinthe
  • Reypenaer - nice, bright cheese shop with very helpful informative owners and employees
  • Temploe Doeloe, Utrechtsestraat 75 - delicious Indonesian food

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Survivors

I just got word that my roommate from my freshman year in college survived the earthquake in Haiti. A few details, which the school has apparently being circulating, really bring home the impact.
Maxime Pierre-Pierre (’92 grad, former employee, working in Petionville, southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Thanks for your prayers. We thank God for keeping our whole family safe as well as our house. Telephone contact is difficult now. I was teaching at STEP seminary when the earthquake hit. The building was seriously affected, and several students were pulled out of the rubble. Our church building was not affected. We have been sleeping outside since Tuesday. We have little access to food, water or fuel and no electricity. Keep praying for us.
If you're reading this, Maxime, I was so relieved to hear you survived, and I'll be keeping you in my thoughts.

Top 5 Groups Pat Robertson Has It in For Next

Presenting, the top 5 groups Pat Robertson has it in for next:
  1. Asexual ants - they dispensed with the male of species (Science News)
  2. Alaskans - the least religious of Americans (Pew Research)
  3. Teenagers - they bear all the signs of demon possession (New Scientist)
  4. Pilots - if man were meant to fly ... (CNN)
  5. Australians - topless sunbathers! (The Telegraph)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Order Out of Nothingness

My new article on Razorfish's Scatter/Gather blog, "Order Out of Nothingness: Tagging 101," discusses tagging mp3s in iTunes, as well as the principles for metadata we can derive from the sloppy tagging of them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Marriage, The Constitution & Religion

Some folks argue that California's provision against gay marriage is a matter of state's rights. That California has a right to uphold its Constitution, as declared by its citizens. Those folks are wrong. When we have gay marriage in all 50 states - and we will - it'll be precisely because it is unConstitutional for states to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” That and the Declaration of Independence proclaimed each person's right to the "pursuit of happiness." Individual states have no say in what amounts to a human rights matter - nor should they. See slavery, segregation, suffrage, etc. The U.S. Constitution supercedes California's. That may not be recognized now, but I believe it will be in the future.

Further, contrary to what many folks say, allowing for gay marriage is not encroaching on religious territory; it is not trampling on line between church and state (which oddly some of the same folks aren't usually particularly concerned with). In fact, if you read about the origins of marriage, they were not religious. Marriage simply acquired religious accoutrements over the ages. Marriages began as a civil and legal affair, not as a religious affair and it essentially involved the the acquisition of women as property. Hardly admirable. Marriage has continued to evolve, however, into a more enlightened arrangement and the addition of gay marriage to the tradition is only another step in the right direction.

Read about the history of marriage in Wikipedia, where it's currently described as "a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship." No mention of religion in defining marriage there.

Or try Merriam Webster if you prefer: "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law." Again, no mention of religion. Whatsoever.

See also, About.com on the history of marriage.

Hero for the Day

My hero for the day is the conservative Republican lawyer, Ted Olsen, who is taking his "Conservative Case for Gay Marriage" to the California Supreme Court in an effort to reverse that state's unConstitutional Proposition 8. From his opening statement this morning:
The Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly described the right to marriage as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men;” a “basic civil right;” a component of the constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, association, and intimate choice; an expression of emotional support and public commitment; the exercise of spiritual unity; and a fulfillment of one’s self.
In short, in the words of the highest court in the land, marriage is “the most important relation in life,” and “of fundamental importance for all individuals.”
As the witnesses in this case will elaborate, marriage is central to life in America. It promotes mental, physical and emotional health and the economic strength and stability of those who enter into a marital union. It is the building block of family, neighborhood and community. The California Supreme Court has declared that the right to marry is of “central importance to an individual’s opportunity to live a happy, meaningful, and satisfying life as a full member of society.”
Proposition 8 ended the dream of marriage, the most important relation in life, for the plaintiffs and hundreds of thousands of Californians.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Favorite Albums of the 00s

A work in progress:
  • Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
  • Burial - Burial
  • Burial - Untrue
  • Eels - Blinking Lights & Other Revelations
  • Nick Cave - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
  • The Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur
  • Massive Attack - 100th Window
  • The National - Alligator
  • The National - Boxer
  • Radiohead - Kid A
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
  • Wilco - Yankee Wilco Foxtrot