Saturday, December 26, 2009

10 to Watch in 10

Land of Opportunity

When I arrived in New Orleans in the summer of 2006, I started attending every planning meeting I could. While sitting there witnessing history, an American city trying to rebuild itself, I thought to myself, someone should be making a movie about this. And someone was. Land Of Opportunity has been spearheaded by Luisa Dantes, and follows the lives of several New Orleanians over the past few years. They also try to make sense of what it means to rebuild New Orleans. Watch the trailer (they have footage of inside the council chambers the day the council voted to demolish the big 4 public housing complexes).

Tradition is a Temple

Not only has Darren Hoffman's company, Tutti Dynamics, created the first iphone App in New Orleans, but he is also working on the finishing touches on a beautiful and powerful documentary about jazz in New Orleans. It includes new performances by legendary artists, Jason Marsalis, Shannon Powell, and the Treme Brass Brand. Watch the trailer

The Right Question Project

Most people assume that the average citizens' only way to participate is at the voting both. Yet, each day, millions of Americans have interactions with the welfare office, food stamp officials, community health centers and public schools. In most cases, citizens do not have the tools to actively participate and get the answers they need. They feel disempowered and helpless. The traditional approach is to tell people how to solve the problems, but The Right Question project has developed a tool that gives each participant the ability to ask their own questions and actively seek out the answers they deserve. This method treats each individual equally and prepares citizens "who expect accountable decision-making and have specific skills to use to try to insure that there are good decisions and accountable decisions being made. The hundred million encounters individuals have with public agencies on a micro level – currently the endpoint of their interaction with decision-making in the public sector - can be transformed into examples of Microdemocracy."

Crescent City Cafe

When we started NOLA YURP a few years ago, we looked for ways that young people from all over the city could connect with each other. The founders of Crescent City Cafe have not only found a way for young people to connect, but they also help feed the homeless with dignity while they are at it. Recently, the media has taken notice, and they are starting to get the attention they deserve.

Next American City Magazine

Many improvements to cities can be drawn from the best practices of others. We can learn from their mistakes, while taking into account what others do well. Next American City has provided that blueprint, with academic, but readable investigative stories. They also combine their print magazine, with conferences and workshops around the country, and a superb website with daily blogs.

James Perry

With the field set, there is nobody else that will bring the change that James believes in. It is easy to criticize the candidates and to swing back and forth with every move they make, but James has consistently shown he has the policy knowledge and awareness that the others lack. New Orleans deserves politicians who understand what the average citizen is going through, and know the issues. Watch James at a recent debate

The Lens

A key ingredient to a healthy democracy is a news source that reports fairly, accurately and does not mind asking the tough questions. With many dailies cutting their investigative journalists, the public is in danger of being led astray. We need journalists to hold elected officials accountable and The Lens in New Orleans will keep this crucial tradition alive.


This documentary showcases a non-violent movement that portrays a partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. It already has won several awards and gives an accurate depiction of different sides of the conflict. You can read the synopsis, here

Green Street

Three and half years ago, I sat in their studio (upstairs bedroom) watching them mix records and talk about their music. This past year, they won the UMass Battle of the Bands and had some great performances in New York. I've been watching from afar and look forward to seeing what they come up with in 2010.


Over the past few years, we have seen the power of the email list. A good list is now worth a lot of money, and can be a valuable tool to spreading your product, organization or message. Unfortunately, most of the times, we are flooded with emails that we hardly even bother to read. What gets people to sign up to receive your information? According to people at TBD, inside information about a great cause. It's often hard to filter what is out there, and it helps to have a trusted source.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Joe Biden may be on to something

What is happening to Joe Biden's skepticism? From the Sunday NY Times

"The deep skepticism he expressed at that opening session was reinforced by Mr. Biden, who rushed back overnight from a California trip to participate. Just as he had done in the spring, Mr. Biden expressed opposition to an expansive strategy requiring a big troop influx. Instead, he put an alternative on the table — rather than focus on nation building and population protection, do more to disrupt the Taliban, improve the quality of the training of Afghan forces and expand reconciliation efforts to peel off some Taliban fighters.

Mr. Biden quickly became the most outspoken critic of the expected McChrystal troop request, arguing that Pakistan was the bigger priority, since that is where Al Qaeda is mainly based. “He was the bull in the china shop,” said one admiring administration official."

Will we look back at Biden's caution and be remorseful? I watched Nightline the other night and saw young American soldiers sit in tanks, a few explosions, and a profile on the medic. In Vietnam, the media was used for the first time to show the horrors of war. Viewers at the time saw limbs torn off, and the awful cruelty of war. What I saw the other night was mild, eery, and tragically dull. I understood there was a war going on, but it was not happening on screen. Why aren't the images that leave soldiers with severe PTSD being shown to the American viewer?

Again, why are we there? Frank Rich and Thomas Friedman don't know either. Do you?

Friday, December 4, 2009


There is so much on the internet. Where should I find stories of interest?

Sometimes all it takes is

Point, Shoot, Retouch and Label?

"VALÉRIE BOYER is 47, a member of the French parliament and a divorced mother of three. She is tall, fashionable and, dare we say it, slim.

But she has also created a small furor here and abroad with her latest proposal: a draft law that would require all digitally altered photographs of people used in advertising be labeled as retouched."

This woman proposed some bold, innovative legislation. I will continue to follow this story

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

John Brown: 150 years later

I was always fascinated with the story of revolutionary John Brown. Apparently today, so was the NY Times.

David Reynolds, who wrote the piece today, is also behind, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights

Barbara Ehrenreich, who just spoiled America's obsession with positive thinking in her latest book, captured Brown's story and the way Reynolds re-created it, eloquently, ""[F]or all its wealth of detail and scrupulous attempts at balance, [JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST] has a shockingly simple message: Far better to have future generations complain about your methods than condemn you for doing nothing."