Casual Evangelist

A mission to learn a little about a lot…

Archive for January, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

Posted by Andrew on January 27, 2008

I had no clue as to what The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was about when I sat down in the theater, but it soon became obvious…and very uncomfortable. The movie is told from the point of view of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a high-flying editor of Elle magazine, after suffering from a stroke that resulted in head-to-toe paralysis – something called locked-in syndrome.

Full paralysis has always been one of the scariest conditions I can imagine. I look away if a football player is down on the field, not moving. Stories of paralysis, whether about celebrities like Christopher Reeve or our troops in Walter Reed, grip me with imagination – the kind of imagination I wish I didn’t have.

The Diving Bell’s perspective puts you right there, and it’s awful. Brief flashbacks of a full, vibrant existence give way to claustrophobia and terror. You wince as one eye is sewn shut. You ask yourself how long it will take to go crazy listening to the alphabet repeated over and over, albeit in pleasant female voices. One blink yes, two blinks no. And please, keep the damn television on!

What this movie really is about though, is life, relationships, determination, and communication. And humor. It is at first Bauby’s quick-witted, sarcastic humor that lifts this movie beyond the immediately terrible and elicits feelings of admiration. The determination of those who work with him (sans that evil doctor) is inspiring, as is Bauby’s determination to complete a book, one letter at a time.

The actors are fantastic, notably Mathieu Amalric in the lead role and Max Von Sydow, who nearly steals the movie in a few short scenes as Bauby’s aging father. The uplifting nature of The Diving Bell is always tempered by the reality of the situation, but the overall effect is a powerful one.

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Posted in Movies | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Umphrey’s McGee Clips from Kimmel Live

Posted by Andrew on January 23, 2008

Umphrey’s McGee is simply one helluva live band. A mix of jamband, prog-rock, pop, funk, and extreme music talent (see the twin guitar slayers Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss, along with monster drummer Kris Myers) they stretch a wide variety of styles and will throw down some amazing covers.

Here’s their performance of Women Wine & Song on Jimmy Kimmel Live from 2006 (with Huey Lewis!)

And their soundcheck, Nemo from the same album…


Go see them!

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Can Ron Paul Resurrect Unity08?

Posted by Andrew on January 23, 2008

Unity08, the effort launched by a handful of prominent Republicans and Democrats to field a centrist, bipartisan third party ticket for president, is facing hard times. The movement has been knocked down by a lack of funding, struggles with FCC regulations, and the departure of two key founders now working to convince New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to wage an independent run for the White House. Their Web site has been reduced to a sad, non-dynamic “status-of-the-movement” message.

Unity08 is down, but is it out?

In order to continue with their efforts and hold an “online convention” to choose their candidates, Unity08 needs two things very soon: an influx of money and energy. No shortage here – Ron Paul and his legions of supporters have plenty of both.

For a while I thought it plausible that, after exiting his quixotic yet surprisingly resonant effort for the GOP nomination, Paul and his supporters could swarm over the Unity08 convention. Now I think that they can save it, albeit with a change in mission away from the centrist focus while maintaining their aim for a “post-partisan” ticket. He would also dispense with the criticism that Unity08 is merely a party for rich, center-right donors.

Ron Paul has indicated that he will not support the eventual GOP nominee if they don’t support some key policy issues he holds based on his Constitutional interpretations – namely the war in Iraq and foreign policy. He’s left the door open to continue his campaign elsewhere.

Will Ron Paul bolt the GOP for Unity08? If he will, the time is near.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Why Thompson’s Exit is a Mistake

Posted by Andrew on January 21, 2008

It looks like Fred Thompson will exit the race for the GOP nod and likely endorse his buddy John McCain (he’s just indicated that he’s not going to participate in the debate later this week). However, the last two debates have demonstrated that he’s pulled a Hillary and found his voice: A no-nonsense communicator and a deliberate thinker with little in the way of negatives in the eyes of Republican voters.

Let’s briefly recap the negatives of the nominees according to many GOP activists and conservatives:

  • John McCain: He’s a pro-war liberal who, as a maverick Senator, aligned himself with the left wing of the Democratic party issues such as taxes, immigration, and the judicial confirmation process. Conservative radio has opened fire on McCain now that he’s achieved frontrunner status. His success is due to significant support from independents, a factor that won’t play in many upcoming contests. Having your name attached to Kennedy and Feingold on major legislation infuriates the base. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Mike Huckabee: He’s a pro-life liberal populist who raised taxes, was soft on immigration, and sounds not unlike John Edwards when talking about the economy. He scares the hell out of the Wall Street wing of the GOP on the economy and scares the hell out of the libertarian wing with his talk of bringing the constitution into line with God. Also a regular target of conservative talk radio. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Mitt Romney: All the money in the world is required to keep Mitt’s head above water in this race (good for him he’s got it to spend). He’s a late-comer on some key social issues GOP voters hold dear, particularly abortion, and many don’t totally trust him. I’d like to think that the Mormon issue isn’t a factor, but who knows? He seems to come undone when challenged and knocked off of his game, and he’s gone negative. The establishment, including talk radio, seems to like the guy. Probably doesn’t threaten the “coalition” unless evangelicals can’t deal with the Mormon issue or social conservatives don’t trust his latter-day conversions on key issues.
  • Rudy Giuliani: He may not even be a player any more as his Florida -> Super Tuesday strategy is becoming increasingly suspect. Can someone who’s posting single digit returns in multiple state contests generate excitement in later contests? He’s unacceptable to many social conservatives despite his promise to nominate “strict constructionists” to the bench. He seems solid on national security and economic issues, but is vulnerable on immigration. Threatens to undo the “coalition” if nominated.
  • Ron Paul: Many find his ideas a refreshing addition to the debate, but voters don’t think he’s electable and he’s just too far out there. He’ll likely bolt the race (and the GOP) to unleash his legions of supporters on the Unity08 online convention and become a third party candidate.
  • Fred Thompson. He doesn’t seem to “desire” the presidency enough and doesn’t like campaigning

So the worst thing conservatives can say about Thompson is that he’s lazy. They do like him though. He’s probably the first choice on the talk show circuit, although they lament the fact that he got in late and stumbled badly early on. Lately, however, he’s been much stronger on the stump and has posted a couple solid debate performances.

With the GOP race so fractured and all four frontrunners so badly flawed according to various factions of the old Reagan coalition, serious reconsideration by voters is inevitable. But they need an alternative, and Thompson could be that alternative. Just a few more weeks is needed to determine whether there is a unique opportunity to capitalize on the high negatives of the frontrunners.

His exit is premature, and a mistake.

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio program yesterday (January 21) that he may not be supporting the eventual GOP nominee. He’s presumably talking about McCain and Huckabee. The fault lines are now real.

    Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    The Wire Summarized

    Posted by Andrew on January 21, 2008

    The fifth, and sadly, final season of HBO’s “The Wire” has begun and is looking brilliant as always. For those that want to get into the show for this season, you’re probably better off renting previous seasons than watching this video from HBO Content on Youtube. I suspect that it is more entertaining for Wire aficionados than useful for newbies getting up to speed.

    Posted in Television | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

    Cloverfield Review

    Posted by Andrew on January 19, 2008

    Spoiler Alert: If you are intent on wasting your money to see this movie, don’t continue.

    Plot: A handful of self-absorbed millennials videoblog about how a 10-story-tall monster demolishing Southern Manhattan is ruining their love lives.

    Cinematography: Handheld camcorder style. If you can’t hold the camera steady at a going-away party, you can’t hold it steady when being chased by a bunch of alien crab creatures. Prepare to squint.

    Crab Creatures: The writers felt that a 10-story-tall monster wasn’t scary enough. Why not have alien crab creatures sprout from the monster’s skin to add a critical “zombie” element to the movie (with obligatory “bite wound” repercussions)? Zombie movies seem to be hip these days.

    The Hiroshima-9/11 Connection. Godzilla was a play on the Japanese’ national “post-nuclear” psyche. Cloverfield’s images play on American’s post 9/11 psyche. Oh, and the lead character was moving to Japan (hence the “going away party”).

    What Are They? Who knows…except maybe the federal government. But since the movie is limited strictly to the video blog of the lead characters, we never find out. The quickness with which the army had tanks in position in Manhattan to do battle tells me that the government must be at least somewhat complicit in this awful movie.

    The movie clocks in at 80 minutes and feels like 60 minutes.

    Conclusion: Shitfield.

    UPDATE:
    I saw the movie with a few social media peeps, including Aaron Brazell, who wrote this review of the movie.

    UPDATE #2: As Aaron reminds me, this movie did give us one hell of a term: “Hammerdown Protocol.” I will certainly be using this in business situations in the near future.

    Posted in Movies | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

    Two Choice Robert Randolph Clips

    Posted by Andrew on January 19, 2008

    Check out these two performances by Robert Randolph and the Family Band on the David Letterman Show. One of the best live acts going today.

    Posted in Music | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

    Hasbro’s Blowin’ It!

    Posted by Andrew on January 16, 2008

    Question: What would you do as the head of a company who’s decades-old product has suddenly seen a significant revival in interest amongst a whole new generation of users? How would you respond if over a half a million people were became actively engaged in playing an online version of your game? How would you capitalize on this sudden, exciting trend and convert this unexpected spike in interest into new sales and branding opportunities? C’mon, your dusty old game is hip again!

    Here’s the wrong answer: You’d fight to shut it down and piss off a half million potential customers. It looks like Hasbro’s following through with their demand that Facebook take down Scrabulous, one of the only things keeping me coming back to Facebook. This is incrediblly short-sighted. Since when does the desire to protect intellectual property trump all business opportunities? Protect the brand and maintain sales status-quo, or embrace the new online paradigms and exploit the opportunities they present?

    Has Hasbro decided to maintain their position as Has-beens.

    UPDATE: Technomarketer has some great advice for how Hasbro should have proceeded (and still can). I couldn’t agree more with his statement that they need to get the lawyers out of the marketing department. Lawyers and marketers rarely mix well. Thanks to Shel Israel for the head’s up. Shel’s been all over this issue…he likes Scrabulous as much, or more, than I do.

    UPDATE #2: Mashable! has a poll up asking what Hasbro should do.

    Posted in Decision-Making, The Social Web | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

    DecisionWorld: A New Blog

    Posted by Andrew on January 15, 2008

    Cross-posted on DecisionWorld

    I’ve started a new blog with Andri Haraldsson of Expert Choice Software, where we hope to explore real-life and theoretical concepts in decision-making and collaboration. Andri and I have had some very interesting conversations, and we came to the conclusion that we should take these conversations to the blogosphere. We hope to build a conversation about how we make personal decisions regarding things like careers and college, as well as decisions and collaboration within the enterprise. What tools can be used? What processes work best? What pitfalls exist that lead to bad decisions?

    Andri’s an expert in decision-making. I’m not. I hope that this signals where we want DecisionWorld to go. We’ll be adding regular and guest contributors, and we aim to strike the right balance of academic and layman, theoretical and practical. I’m involved in leading a new web start-up, and there’s lots of decisions to be made. If you think about it, making decisions is the most important role of an executive, and often the most difficult or mystifying. This holds true in life as well.

    Onward!

    Posted in Decision-Making | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

    Utterz needs “Utterz Radio”

    Posted by Andrew on January 14, 2008

    I haven’t started recording on Utterz yet, but I’ve registered, secured my handle, and listened to some friend’s recordings. I really like the concept, but the issue I see is that without something to look at, they eyes want to wander to other sites (sights?) while listening. But these messages are rather short and require you to click on the next one. It can get old fast, and this is a problem that Utterz should address…soon. The good news is there’s tons of possibilities for utterz.

    My idea is that users can create their personal utterz channel that includes all of their friends and others they’re interested in. Go to utterz and press play on your channel, and get all of the utterz recorded since you last logged in – back-to-back. This way, you can listen to what your people have been up to while doing other things-reading, surfing, doing dishes.

    Companies can also set up private utterz channels where leadership (or all employees) can record updates on what’s going on, and the rest of the company can hear a stream of messages and keep more attuned with their organization. This is also a nice way to monetize the site via premium customers.

    The same probably applies to seesmic.

    [If I’ve missed something and this currently exists, oops]

    UPDATE: Jimmy Gardner previously posted this regarding business and disaster uses for Utterz…and I commented on it! It stemmed from a chatroom discussion during Jonny Goldstein’s ParTay. I need a nap.

    Bessie

    Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: | 1 Comment »