Ozymandias and Harriet

May 11th, 2018 by dewprocess.

California State Senator Scott Wiener and I communicated with one another several times during his campaign to push SB 827 through the legislature, and I warned very early on during our exchanges that the singlemindedness that gave him the courage and conviction to introduce and champion such disruptive legislation would be the very undoing of its hopes for success.

I do not delight in being proven right in this case, because the intent behind this bill was and remains laudable. Urban zones, especially in California, are in desperate need of increased housing inventory. That said, the housing most needed in many of our cities is not luxury condominiums or lofty apartments for the well-heeled. What is sorely lacking in major municipalities is thoughtfully centralized housing for the people who keep our cities alive: the teachers, city workers, restaurant and store staff, and other citizens presently struggling through daily commutes to work in places where they cannot presently imagine ever being able to live. A healthy community caters to its best and most conscientious citizens, irrespective of their income, net worth, gender, color, or creed. Our cities have lost sight of this dictum. Another element in ensuring the health and well-being of our urban societies is protecting the best core differentiating characteristics of each of these communities. Senator Wiener’s bill did not satisfy its critics on either count. Desperate circumstances do NOT always call for desperate measures.

Senator Wiener made it very clear to me how disdainful he was of early critiques, and his dismissive answers to polite questions in numerous online forums repeatedly undermined his chances at developing transversal support. It was only after a groundswell of opposition presented itself, from such quarters as the Sierra Club and the LA Times, that he begrudgingly agreed to revisit the details of his proposed bill. The damage had been done, however, and he had alienated too many potential interests, who might have proven invaluable in developing a piece of legislation that could have been truly revolutionary, if somewhat more nuanced than the original form.

My hope now is that Senator Wiener learns from this experience. He was not wrong in his general objective. He was incorrect in his specific approach. Credit is due, though, to the Senator: for lighting a match under municipalities whose bureaucracies have for too long kicked this can down the road. The warning bell has been rung, and it would not behoove our cities to meet Senator Wiener’s unfortunate strategy with their own arrogance and hubris. Change is due, and I sincerely hope that when Senator Wiener looks to revisit the matter, he will find that local legislatures will have done the job well enough to both adequately approach his noble aspirations and meet the needs of the community they more knowledgeably serve.

Find and Create Meaning.

March 8th, 2018 by dewprocess.

Each day that we awake should ideally be a day in which we find and create meaningful impact. Ideally. Of course, some days seem to dictate that deadlines, workloads, and other impediments mitigate our efforts to accomplish even one of these two.

So, today, as we celebrate those individuals who somehow seem to get it all done, and for less pay and often less credit, it behooves us to make that extra effort to find and create meaning.

Who was that one woman, other than your mother, who influenced you so positively that your debt of gratitude remains unpaid? Name her today.

Who is that one woman in your life, professional or otherwise, who you know deserves more than she gets? Whether it is in your power directly or not, may I suggest you make every effort to ensure she finally gets that credit, and – if possible – that pay raise, that promotion, that thanks.

Breakfast Banter

January 20th, 2018 by dewprocess.

Tonight is the Producers Guild Awards, in anticipation of which I was invited to this morning’s Nominee’s Breakfast, where I got to meet some fascinating producers from all over the world, and catch pearls of wisdom from the mouths of this year’s Nominated Pictures shepherds. Rather than post a bunch of thoroughly uninteresting selfies of me side hugging a ton of celebrities I’ve never met before, I thought it might be a tad more interesting to recall some of the comments I caught from others, in passing:

“If it had come to me without Aaron Sorkin attached to write it, it would have been hard to do. He was a real challenge, though. As tough as he was to work with as a writer, he was a pleasure to work with as a director.” – Mark Gordon, producer of “Molly’s Game”

“We thought ‘we’ll probably only get a million dollars to make this, and nobody will see it, but this is such a beautiful story, we have to do it.’” – Barry Mendel, producer of “The Big Sick”

“We came to Warner Brothers with the script and Chris (Nolan) said ‘Here’s the story, but we insist on casting it with unknown actors.’” – Emma Thomas, producer of “Dunkirk”

“Here’s one that nobody will ever make.” – Jordan Peele, pitching a script at a coffee meeting to discuss random possible projects, as recalled by Sean McKittrick, producer of “Get Out”

‘I wanted to produce and star in this before I knew Tonya Harding was a real person.” – Margot Robbie, producer and star of “I, Tonya”

“The last person we wanted to talk to was Scott (Rudin) because he is Noah Baumbach’s producer, and we wanted this to be Greta’s (Greta Gerwig) story. But he pushed for it, and did amazing things.” – Evelyn O’Neill, producer of “Lady Bird”

“When everyone thought Clinton would get in, directors were turning us down because they saw it as a drawing room drama: quaint and unimportant. When January came, though, we had interest from a lot of very different directors.” – Amy Pascal, producer of “The Post”

 “Guillermo (del Toro) came to me with this story about a mute cleaning lady falling in love with a fish man, and it was obviously a slam dunk! I smelled a bidding war!” – J. Miles Dale, producer of “The Shape Of Water”

“Martin (McDonagh) wrote this for Fran (Frances McDormand), and for Sam (Rockwell), but getting him to direct it was a challenge. He likes his plays, and he likes his time off: to travel, to see things” – Graham Broadbent, producer of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

“We made a conscious decision from the start to have a woman director because how do you tell the story of such an iconic feminist character without a female helming the production?” – Deborah Snyder, producer of “Wonder Woman”

 

An Old Adage Goes Interactive

January 12th, 2018 by dewprocess.

Fort Collins, Colorado is installing its own “civic broadband” service, after the politicized FCC instituted a net neutrality repeal.
Chattanooga was the first with a municipal ISP program, and more will follow.

Perhaps this is how we beat corrupt government: think global, act local!

Of additional interest will be the implications for the larger telcos, cablecos, and other “Last Mile” pipeline owners such as AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, et al: If municipalities become ISPs, the democratization of Internet access will be accelerated dramatically, and represent a big threat to private corporations’ strategic throttling of content distribution.

 

 

 

Crowdsourced Winter Reading List

October 13th, 2017 by dewprocess.

I recently posted a query to my Twitter family:

In no time at all, I received a flurry of very interesting and diverse replies, and I want to thank everyone for their very compelling suggestions. Here below the first ten reading suggestions, as I look forward to more to come!:

“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – via https://twitter.com/carozaldua

“2am at the Cat’s Pajamas” by Marie-Helene Bertino – via https://twitter.com/lmholt0

“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline – via https://twitter.com/schlossax

“Lamb” by Christopher Moore – via https://twitter.com/jiwindsor

“Agapē Agape” by William Gaddis – via https://twitter.com/140xLangame

A general recommendation of biographies from https://twitter.com/MihadAli

“The Moon’s a Balloon” by David Niven – via https://twitter.com/bockersjv

“Such Small Hands” by Andrés Barba – via https://twitter.com/citizenlow

“The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt – via https://twitter.com/timokupsa

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders – via https://twitter.com/sfie_1

The Consumer Never Wins In Format Wars

October 8th, 2017 by dewprocess.

Betamax was better than VHS (smaller tapes, better color reproduction, APS, 250 lines vs. 240 lines of resolution, superior sound, a more stable image, and better HW (recorders) construction).

HD DVD was better than Blu-ray, from a production scaling perspective: a fact that would have proved even more profitable given the lack of wholescale Blu-ray adoption for which Sony et al were hoping. While Blu-ray picture quality is superior to HD DVD, the cost for upgrade (to studios, manufacturers, and consumers alike) will have proven too great, once we look back and see how non-existent the transition from DVD to Blu-ray was.

History is littered with the corpses of superior or more reasonably positioned systems, all killed by the same disease: poor strategic marketing. Herewith, another one bites the dust:

The Windows Phone OS family (WinPhone 7 – Windows 10 Mobile) was a fluid, elegant, sophisticated OS group, murdered by marketing failures galore (as well as by the marketing successes of the opposition). For more than 6 years, I have been writing about Microsoft’s failure to effectively position or market their mobile platform and operating systems. A lot of good that did!

What are the lessons learned, and has Microsoft burned their mobile user base enough times now, that their Windows Core OS offering will fail to elicit enthusiasm from mobile consumers who carry too many scars?

https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-windows-10-mobile-features-and-hardware-are-not-focus-anymore

Two Anniversaries

August 23rd, 2017 by dewprocess.

13 years ago, I gave a small talk at the Cannes Film Festival, evangelizing for more measured creative and business growth. I had been working with several startups and noticed a trend toward accelerated scaling that I found worrisome. I encouraged my audience (mostly independent filmmakers) to give themselves time to develop their properties, instead of desperately rushing to sell their idea, fearful that it would be illicitly co-opted by some unknown competitor.

In 2005, I joined a large multinational corporation and noticed that this trend was reflected in the sense of urgency with which budgets and projects were managed throughout business units, and even at the corporate level (usually in response to shareholder demands for the semblance of repetitive short term gains).

Instead of engaging in careful long-term strategic planning and consistent scaling at a manageable pace, enterprises large and small were increasingly (and often retroactively) chasing mythical goals. Business ventures want to convince investors, shareholders, and others that their offering is worth obscene valuation, yet they don’t want to “waste” time actually doing the work of conceptualizing, developing, testing, productizing, marketing, selling, and supporting any tangible offering. It takes less time to make a PowerPoint, it would seem, than it does to make a product. The collateral damage from this mentality continues to be ignored today, by too many people who ought to know better.

Permit me to jump to another topic, for reasons which will become apparent, I hope:

The C-130 Hercules remains the longest continuously produced military aircraft in history. The first flight of the YC-130 prototype was made on this day (23 August) 1954 from the Lockheed plant in Burbank, California. Burbank’s relationship with Lockheed was long and proud, but the city demonstrated a painful lack of strategic planning that left it in dire straits in the early 1990s, when Lockheed left town. The job losses and economic downturn were dramatic, to say the least. Burbank had relied too heavily on one industry, even though the signs of change in that industry had been evident for years. Today, the local economy in this charming SoCal city is once again relying heavily on an admirable and powerful industry. That industry is also showing signs of dramatic change, and Burbank must work proactively – in partnership with its resident businesses from the Media & Entertainment industries – to adapt and evolve, in order to stay aloft in turbulent times, economic, technological, and social.
Cities are growing, as populations increasingly urbanize. Too many of these cities rely on a very few large sources of tax inflow, instead of diversifying their portfolio of revenues. Given that 99.7% of businesses in the US are small businesses, and 48% of US employees are small-business employees, I continue to advocate (with increasing volume!) for municipalities to support sustainable small business incubation: providing for scalable workforce growth, complementary innovations within pre-existing business ecosystems, and more agile infrastructures, capable of adapting to the increasingly explosive nature of 21st century markets, without becoming unduly subject to that same volatility.

The window of opportunity narrows, the closer one comes to a point of inflection. Will Burbank adapt in time, so it is able to manage, rather than be subject to, dynamic market changes? Will the Media & Entertainment industries pull back (even just a little) from the precipice of quarterly performance, in deference to more long-term strategic measurements? Will business ventures invest more thoughtfully in smaller initiatives (subsidiary or autonomous), more capable of adapting to the creative, technological, and economic forces that wait around the corner?

In the words of my close personal friend, Dame Shirley:

“They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolution’s near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That’s it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”

Looking For Answers.

August 13th, 2017 by dewprocess.
I often get push back from a few urban residents and business owners, whenever I speak at events and propose the idea of widened sidewalks, increased tree canopy, and raised, marked, and/or buffered bicycle lanes. My campaign is not merely in support of a changing streetscape, but for an evolution in how we coexist.

A mixed-use sidewalk in Lisbon, Portugal – comfortably accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

The resistance to my proposals is almost always borne of an innate fear of change. There exists in many of us an unconscious aversion to change, perhaps founded on a sense, however mistaken, that the status quo is always safer. Let’s be clear: it is only safer for those who benefit from that structure, and that structure is always perilous if it sits on unstable foundations. The pillars of fear, untruth, greed, and violence are made of the weakest mortar.
 
While it is true that the “evil we know” may be more predictable than an unknown and unquantifiable alternative, our evolution is based on a drive to innovate and disrupt. How do we reconcile these instincts that seem so diametrically opposed? We must become living testaments to the notion that oil and water can coexist. It seems a silly suggestion, until you look around at the turmoil that is escalating in otherwise developed communities.

So long as we respond to the “other” with fear and aggression we will never advance our society. We won’t evolve. We must, therefore, offer proposals for change and improvement that are tenable. Proposals tend to work best when they offer opportunity and options.

  • It might be something as relatively innocuous as getting a town to accept a plastic bag ban; offer them compelling and creative alternatives, such as reusable bags branded with their favorite store. The consumer gets a quality freebie, and the store gets the best sort of marketing possible: free grass-roots brand evangelism!),
  • convincing your community to finally accept that urban infrastructures require multimodal transportation options, and the streetscape is no longer the exclusive domain of the single-driver combustion fuel vehicle, but rather a vital part of our urban landscape that must be shared and managed with thoughtful consideration for all (develop a well-planned and comprehensive network of multimodal transport options, including pedestrian, bicycle, and public; ensure these options function efficiently and are well-signed; enforce the law for *all* stakeholders; and provide follow-up metrics to prove the merits of the model: social, safety, environmental, and economic);
  • or encouraging a society to accept and adapt to the often complicated but unavoidable complexities and nuisances of the present world in which we live, with a view to improving the future *together*, as opposed to yearning for a yesteryear that only existed for an entitled few.

How do privileged individuals such as myself support positive change, without injecting our own ignorance or arrogance? How do POC, women, the disabled, and other underrepresented constituencies secure their overdue rights, without feeling that they must do it all alone? Societies do not advance by fragmentation. Lasting change works best when we are all invested. How do we acknowledge the nuances that comprise every individual, so we each feel empowered and represented? How do we, ourselves, practice this inclusivity when we’ve perhaps never had to exist in a constant state of powerlessness and underrepresentation?

The questions will be many, and embedded with complexity. I worry that the portal to a stronger society, which can only be unlocked by the many keys of a truly enlightened and unified community, will remain locked longer than we hope. I fear we’ll struggle: pushing angrily against each other, instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, confronting the obstacle together.

I don’t have the answers. Our politicians believe they are supposed to provide solutions, and we reinforce that sense with our demands and complaints. Perhaps our political system and its representatives are only supposed to provide thoughtfully crafted legislation and infrastructure. Then, We The People, are obliged to manifest the sustainable solutions that will advance our society, through our daily actions and interactions. Whatever the best option may be, it will not be discovered, let alone developed or deployed, unless we work together. At this juncture, this may seem an unrealistic and possibly untenable option. Do you have a better option? One which recognizes the humanity in each of us? One which respects and supports our equality, even though it may not yet be realized? One which refutes hate, social fragmentation, oppression, and exclusion? If we are only willing to listen to or read opinions that conform to our pre-existing beliefs and values, the status quo will be maintained, until it falls apart – a victim of its own internal frictional forces.

The challenge is in putting that change into action in a way that recognizes the urgency of the need, the diversity of given circumstances, and the enormity of the baggage we each bring to this journey.  How do we bring about positive change – inclusively, enthusiastically, intelligently, sustainably, meaningfully, realistically?

Sometimes The Path To Success Is An Uphill Road.

August 4th, 2017 by dewprocess.

My ideas and initiatives sometimes seem unconventional to many, but I have never been so vilified as when I first proposed a new streetscape redesign in the City of Burbank, California, back on September 21st, 2009. One member of the City Council actually accused me of being part of a United Nations conspiracy to rob US citizens of their rights! Thankfully, the party responsible for that particular point of view is no longer in a position of municipal authority.

I spent nearly 2 years vociferously campaigning for this redesign, supported by my fellow City Commissioners. It was an uphill battle, greatly aided by smart advice from my friend Janette Sadik-Khan, during her tenure as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

A number of city residents, reliable members of the NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) constituency, enthusiastically sought to paint (if you’ll forgive the pun) my initiative as an unrealistic and socialist land grab (I’m not making this up!). Groups such as the hard working Walk Bike Burbank got involved, working diligently to educate citizens on the potential health, safety, and community benefits of our initiative.

Nearly 8 years later, we are vindicated, in this excellent article. One street. 8 years. At this rate, a fully multimodal transportation infrastructure is still a long way off. I will, however, not surrender my firm belief that our cities need to be more accessible, inclusive, diverse, and community-oriented than they presently are. With more than 82% of citizens living in urban areas, it is more important than ever to ensure that we make our cities more livable, walkable, bikeable, workable, breathable, and affordable.

#NeverGiveUp

Be Less. Do More. (Commentary from NdeW)

June 14th, 2017 by dewprocess.

So this aggressively self-promotional “social media guru” recently posted a piece equating himself with Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban, despite the fact that nobody outside this particular guru’s little bubble really knows him. I found it a little distasteful, but not really out of the ordinary, when one reviews the diversity of “gurus” and “experts” who spend more time selling their name and brand than actually helping build other businesses, products, solutions…let alone making the world a better place! We all slip up once or twice, in our efforts to be noticed – especially in an increasingly noisy world. I consider myself fortunate to have a strong core of friends and associates who regularly remind me that the best effort is always applied on behalf of others, not exclusively for altruistic reasons, but rather because our legacy will always be marked by what we do for our communities, not what we acquire for ourselves.

#Ozymandias

Thank you to those who help me minimize my foolishness, and maximize my value to others.

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