Archive for the ‘media’ Category

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Galdwell

I know I’m pretty much the last person on earth to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, but I just finished it on Saturday—and I loved it.

I’m sure the reasons I liked it are similar to why others like it: It illustrates the extraordinary things that can happen in ordinary circumstances. The stories it recounts show great success based on the little things. And Gladwell is an excellent storyteller.

It’s inspirational and motivational, expecially to someone like me who is trying to figure out the ways of the sales and word-of-mouth worlds.

But somehow I can’t help but feel that it falls just short of being highly important. And maybe it’s not meant to be—maybe it has been the success of the book that has elevated it to something more significant socially than it was intended.

Either way it’s a great tip to the iceburg. And anyone who really engages with the subject matter will be driven to find out more. And I have to say I love Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues even more now. Now I’m really looking forward to Blink and especially to Outliers. More Malcolm, here I come!


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Buster Keaton, one of the iconic comics of olde brought into new life in Vanity Fairs shoot. In the Aprill 2009 issue, a similar portrait is shot wit Jason Segel.

Buster Keaton, one of the iconic comics of "olde" brought into new life in Vanity Fair's shoot. In the Aprill 2009 issue, a similar portrait is shot with Jason Segel.

I’m not normally that big of a Vanity Fair person. I don’t have anything against it in particular, it’s just not my glossy of choice. Nevertheless, when my fiance emailed me this Huffington Post article about the new Vanity Fair Legends of Comedy, I responded with, “Can we PLEASE buy this and FRAME IT?!”

Needless to say, it’s pretty awesome. I think the folks over at VF do have the edge when it comes to creative photography. And I really love the guys they’re spotlighting in this feature too.

During the past couple of months I have become hooked on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” which was almost directly preceded by my unexpected enjoyment of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I will even admit to liking Superbad at least a little.

And although it’s outside of the Judd Apatow arsenal, I have to say I am REALLY excited about the upcoming I Love You, Man, featuring my two favorite VF funny men.

So check out the awesome video about the photo shoot, and if you want to hear a great story about Judd Apatow and how he’s sticking around for a while, check out this bit from NPR’s All Things Considered last April. Enjoy.

And I wanted to run an image from Vanity Fair’s April photo shoot highlighting today’s great comics in yesterday’s awesome poses. But clearly I don’t want to take anyone’s work and call it my own, so just check out the totally kickass slideshow on VF.com.

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“Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism– these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths.”— Obama

The strange looking animals pictured above are Highland Cattle, also know as Hairy Coos. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. But they’re kinda cute. I don’t know how they see where they’re going.

I wanted to write something after the inauguration. Something about how real it felt to me and how good. And about how I love Michelle’s comfortable glamor and Barack’s humble wait in the hallway. I’m excited to see what will happen and hopeful because I might actually have the chance/inclination to become involved this time around.

My parents gave me a subscription to Newsweek for Christmas, and this week I’ve read the issue nearly cover-to-cover, which has been a real treat. I’m for staying connected and informed without being pulled down into international pessimism. I’m hoping that reading well-written news will do better for this than too much TV or even radio.

Which all kinda leads me (in a very weird, indirect way) to what I am considering to be my New Years Resolution. Yea, yea… I know it’s been a month already so I’m a little late, but these things need to be considered. And in my defense I did come up with this at the beginning of the month. I’m just getting to posting it now, which you will come to see is the slightest bit ironic.

The word of the year is “intentional.” I want to live with my with more intention. Do what I say I am going to do, in a way that encourages curiosity and productivity. It’s not that I want to get more done, I want to do more with the full awareness of what and how I am doing.

So there. That is the big picture for 2009. A little late, maybe a little hairy. But hopefully a lot curious.

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Peace and Warmth

I didn’t have a title in mind for this post, until I found the photo. The title is taken from it. And I think it best describes what I’m looking for right now, and what the waiting of Advent is about.

Life is crazy, with good news and bad news, with frustrations and new adventures. But it’s somehow always crazier at this time of the year. I just got a job, a real-life, grown-up job, at Montreat. And I’m thrilled, and so excited to be learning new things and going out there and getting things done. It brings up its own set of questions and stresses, but it’s still good. (I apologize for being vague here… sometimes typing “out loud” even in vague terms can be useful.)

On a more concrete note, I was watching Mary Poppins last night on ABC Family (their 25 Days of Christmas ranks high on my marathon list, up there with the Bond one that Spike usually runs around New Years), and it occurred to me how much of that movie was stamped into my memory. The songs, the words, the tone of voice, the images especially. (Which also makes me a little frightened to wonder what we are stamping into children’s minds these days.) But I remembered all of it, and also recognized that I had never fully understood much of it before. Even though I am no longer a child, this story holds a certain magical quality, and was a perfect thing to watch before bedtime.

A few of my friends are carrying on quite wonderful blogs these days, and I am inspired by their insight. Check out Kara’s blog and Bruce’s blog (he’s not a real friend yet, but he is the moderator of the PCUSA and quite an awesome presence on the Web).

Peace. And warmth. And please send some my way, too, if you will.

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Slam Slam by Nick Hornby

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nick Hornby continues to be brilliant. He writes in the way that people actually talk without making the dialogue feel dumbed down or vulgar. Reading Slam made me feel like I was in England again, which drew me in immediately. It’s unusual for me to find engaging books written from the perspective of young men, but I became an immediate fam of High Fidelity, and Slam did not disappoint.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to see Nick Hornby on campus. In a Q&A session with a handful of students he said one thing that has always stuck with me, and I think it’s deeply reflected in his work. He said: In order to be any sort of artist, you have to maintain a certain amount of immaturity. You have to be immature enough to believe that the world actually wants—or really, needs—to read/see/hear what it is you have to say. The protagonist of Slam maintains this immaturity through the nature of his youth and through his candor, and it happens seamlessly and beautifully.

Even the slightly magical aspects of the book—the time travel and the talking poster—fit into the framework without showing any work.

A great YA novel that expands on the mind of the young father, Slam is great for Nick Hornby fans and general YA readers alike. Bottom line: Nick Hornby could do more to fix sex education in American than our government ever will.

View all my reviews.

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I figured out how to turn on the air conditioning in my suite. Today it got up to about 94, and with the thermal properties of a city comprising who-knows-how-many square miles of concrete, I’m sure it felt much hotter. I spent much of the afternoon in my room, much too hot to walk anywhere and definitely too hot to go down to the subway platform. Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember thinking that these rooms were supposed to have AC, but I probably dismissed it in part because I’ve lived in non-ACed houses for the past three summers, and I just feel like the sticky hotness is the way summer living is.

Not anymore, thanks to my finding a really grimy switch in the “off” position, on the equally grimy AC unit hidden behind something once used as a whiteboard, as evidenced through the unerasable beer pong tallies on the front, left courtesy of the previous (male) tenants.

Anyway, the past couple of days have been good ones, and full ones. Highlights include an absolutely enthralling (no sarcasm, it really was amazing) presentation by David Granger, the editor of Esquire magazine, one by the creative director at Gourmet and another by the ad sales director at Condé Nast’s Portfolio. I also got to tour the Good Housekeeping Research Institute and pitch a magazine idea (along with a group) for a publication that I truly would love to see get made. The roomie and I have been continuing our evening strolls around the neighborhood, and last night some new friends and I went to the Rodeo restaurant and bar, where there was great food and drink and an excellent band.

Twice this week I’ve gone to a little pan-Asian restaurant on 8th St. called Cafetasia. I found out about it in the Time Out New York student issue, and it’s perfect because it has a great trendy, fancy ambience, but the prices are incredibly reasonable. The food was great both times, and it made me feel like I was having a really upscale restaurant experience without the price tag.

Tonight, after the second visit to Cafetasia, I went to go see War, Inc., the new film starring John Cusack (and Joan Cusack by default) as well as Marisa Tomei and Hillary Duff, with some smaller appearances by Dan Ackroyd and Sir Ben Kingsley. It was playing at a little place in Soho called the Angelika Film Center, which has a full coffee shop with ice cream upstairs, and six theaters and a concession stand downstairs. The theaters were tiny, but it meant they could show lots of independent films at a time. Of course the price was high ($12 a ticket), but it was overall a good experience.

The movie got kinda lukewarm reviews, and although I really liked it, I can kinda see why. John Cusack plays an assassin (again) who is hired by a Halliburton-like company to kill an oil magnate in Turaqistan, with the premise that the war at hand there has been entirely financed and planned by big business. The over-the-top nature of the metaphor earns some laughs as tanks fitted with Financial Times billboards roll past piles of rubble and Cusack has a therapy-session conversation with his personal navigation system, GodStar. But the film probably could have earned some points with subtlety or depth, but its in-your-face tactics will probably draw some attention. Duff and Tomei both have good performances, and overall I think it was a good film.

John Cusack is a great actor because of the films he chooses, but I have to say I feel that he hasn’t chosen the best ones lately. Martian Child was good, but it was no High Fidelity (my favorite movie ever, pretty much) or Say Anything. Must Love Dogs had the perfect part for him, and the perfect part for Diane Lane, but the two together just did not make a believable couple. It would have been two good separate movies. “Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out or fade away?”

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Last night I had the good fortune to see David Lamotte perform on my campus. I’m graduating
in three weeks, and he’s retiring in seven months, so it was a bit of a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. And it was fantastic, as it always is. The difference was that this show I cried during almost every song, beginning with “Shadows” and ending with a late-night “Song for You.”

The first time I ever heard of David Lamotte I was in the living room of Sylvan Heights lodge in Montreat. I don’t remember if I was on one of the ancient couches or sitting on the floor that still is slanted enough that spilled drinks run to one of the walls, but I know it was 1998 and I was on my first-ever youth retreat. The song was “New Lullaby,” and although it was probably eight years before I heard the story behind the song, it was immediately obvious to me that there was a giddy joy hanging from the line, “If the Lord should come see me before I awake, we’ll run up to heaven and eat chocolate cake.”

I saw David perform for the first time less than a year later in a church in Charlotte, and I think it was quite a long time after that before I saw him again. You can’t not love David Lamotte, and about three summers ago I went to four or five shows in a span of two weeks. Over the years I have accumulated CDs, a DVD and a fantastic T-shirt, but it’s been more than that. Listening to his stories and attending a “World Changing 101” seminar, he has touched something real. Real enough to bring tears to my eyes multiple times in one evening, just by sending out songs from a “real idealist,” as he calls himself on his blog.

This label makes sense to me. Not only is he actually changing the world through his PEG projects and his shows, but he is also very real. I’ve met the people he talks about in his stories, and I’ve spent endless evenings at the Velvet Moose where he lived for a summer. I’ve seen David at the Morning Glory Cafe on a Sunday morning and I’ve grinned so big when he greeted one of my best friends as “Hey beautiful” at Lake Tomahawk park.

David’s retiring in November to study peacemaking in Australia, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his wife. It seems to be the right next step, but I would be lying if I said I won’t be mourning a bit for the hole he’ll be leaving on all those stages. Although it won’t be an empty hole; it will be filled with the memories of people like me and with all those rich, guitar-spanking chords he sent out to wash over the people he loves.

I hope I won’t have to leave these mountains for at least a couple more years, but when my heart does go back there, as it certainly will, they will remember David. Thanks David, for all of it.

First Note: I decided during the show last night that “Song of Peace” will have to play a part in my wedding.

Second Note: David had a lot of fun with his layering machine last night, and I found this YouTube video of another time he had similar fun. Enjoy.

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