Monthly Archives: December 2012

“A Day Without Laughter…”

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by | December 29, 2012 · 10:41 pm

How Children Learn: Portraits of Classrooms Around the World

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“A revealing lens on a system-phenomenon both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of diversity.

Since 2004, Julian Germain has been capturing the inner lives of schools around the world, from England to Nigeria to Qatar, in his large-scale photographs of schoolchildren in class.Classroom Portraits (public library) is part Where Children Sleep, partBureaucratics, part What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets, part something else entirely — a poignant lens on a system-phenomenon that is both global in reach and strikingly local in degree of peculiarity, revealed through more than 450 portraits of schoolchildren from 20 countries.

 

 

 

Jessore, Bangladesh. Year 10, English.

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Brazil, Belo Horizonte, Series 6, Mathematics

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

USA, St Louis, Grade 4 & 5, Geography

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Nigeria, Kano, Ooron Dutse, Senior Islamic Secondary Level 2, Social Studies

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Taiwan, Ruei Fang Township, Kindergarten, Art

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

St. Petersburg, Russia. Year 2, Russian

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

The extent of concentration and mutuality required for each portrait offer a beautiful metaphor for the teaching-learning process itself. Germain writes:

I never tell the students how they should look but ensuring that everybody has a clear view of the camera requires concentration and patience. Each pupil has to be aware of their place in the picture.

In order to achieve sharp focus in both fore- and background, the exposure time is usually a quarter or half a second so the pupils have to be ready for the moment the shutter is released. I am waiting for them and they are waiting for me. The process itself generates an atmosphere and the time captured in the portrait seems significant.

 

 

 

England, Seaham, Reception and Year 1, Structured Play

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Japan, Grade 5, Classical Japanese

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Havana, Cuba. Year 2, Mathematics.

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Lagos, Nigeria. Basic 7 / Junior Secondary Level 1, Mathematics

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

England, Keighley, Year 6, History

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

England, Washington, Year 7 (first day), Registration

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Holland, Drouwenermond, Primary Year 5, 6, 7 & 8, History

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Qatar, Grade 8, English

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Bahrain, Saar, Grade 11, Islamic

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Peru, Cusco, Primary Grade 4, Mathematics

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Cuba, Havana, Playa, Year 9, national television screening of film ‘Can Gamba’ (about Cuban participation in Angolan Revolution)

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

The Netherlands, Rotterdam, Secondary Group 3, Motor Mechanics

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Yemen, Manakha, Primary Year 2, Science Revision

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

 

 

 

Argentina, Buenos Aires, Grade 4, Natural Science

Image courtesy Julian Germain

 

(Is it just me, or do the kids in Natural Science class seem most mischievously engaged? Perhaps every child is a scientist.)

 feature shoot

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by | December 29, 2012 · 10:10 pm

The Secret of Happiness: A TED Remix

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“Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project fame, who inspired me to excavate an old pet project of minefeatured here nearly two years ago: An exploratory story of what happiness is, told in TED soundbites and kinetic typography — a true labor of love that took three weeks to compose, audio-edit and animate. Enjoy!”

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by | December 29, 2012 · 10:08 pm

Does the Universe Have a Purpose? Neil deGrasse Tyson, Animated

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““In the absence of human hubris, and after we filter out the delusional assessments it promotes within us, the universe looks more and more random.”

“Why does the world exist?,” asked one of the best philosophy books of the year. Another way to put is, “Does the universe have a purpose?” That’s exactly what the John Templeton Foundation asked a dozen of our time’s greatest scientific minds in a new series of Big Questions. The wonderful MinutePhysics — who have previously given us a stride-stopping open letter on the state of science education and animated explanations of why the color pink doesn’t existwhy the past is different from the future, and why it’s dark at night — have animatedNeil deGrasee Tyson’s characteristically brilliant answer to the question, which once again reaffirms him as the Carl Sagan of our day:

To assert that the universe has a purpose implies the universe has intent. And intent implies a desired outcome. But who would do the desiring? And what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable? Or that sentient primates are life’s neurological pinnacle? Are answers to these questions even possible without expressing a profound bias of human sentiment? Of course humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic history. So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it.

Indeed, what an eloquent attestation to the power of not knowing.

 It’s Okay To Be Smart

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by | December 29, 2012 · 10:04 pm

100 Diagrams That Changed the World

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“A visual history of human sensemaking, from cave paintings to the world wide web.

Since the dawn of recorded history, we’ve been using visual depictions to map the Earthorder the heavensmake sense of timedissect the human bodyorganize the natural world,perform music, and even concretize abstract concepts like consciousness and love100 Diagrams That Changed the World (UKpublic library) by investigative journalist and documentarian Scott Christianson chronicles the history of our evolving understanding of the world through humanity’s most groundbreaking sketches, illustrations, and drawings, ranging from cave paintings to The Rosetta Stone to Moses Harris’s color wheel to Tim Berners-Lee’s flowchart for a “mesh” information management system, the original blueprint for the world wide web.

But most noteworthy of all is the way in which these diagrams bespeak an essential part of culture — the awareness that everything builds on what came before, that creativity is combinatorial, and that the most radical innovations harness the cross-pollination of disciplines. Christianson writes in the introduction:

It appears that no great diagram is solely authored by its creator. Most of those described here were the culmination of centuries of accumulated knowledge. Most arose from collaboration (and oftentimes in competition) with others. Each was a product and a reflection of its unique cultural, historical and political environment. Each represented specific preoccupations, interests, and stake holders.

[…]

The great diagrams depicted in the book form the basis for many fields — art, astronomy, cartography, chemistry, mathematics, engineering, history, communications, particle physics, and space travel among others. More often than not, however, their creators — mostly known, but many lost to time — were polymaths who are creating new technologies or breakthroughs by drawing from a potent combination of disciplines. By applying trigonometric methods to the heavens, or by harnessing the movement of the sun and the planets to keep time, they were forging powerful new tools; their diagrams were imbued with synergy.

 

 

 

Rosetta Stone (196 BC)

Discovered in 1799, this granite block containing a decree written in three languages allowed Egyptologists to interpret hieroglyphics for the first time — a language that had been out of use since the fourth century AD.

 

 

 

 

The Ptolemaic System (Claudus Ptolemy, c. AD 140-150)

This 1568 illuminated illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric system, ‘Figura dos Corpos Celestes’ (Four Heavenly Bodies), is by the Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velbo.

 

 

 

 

Ptolemy’s World Map (Claudius Ptolemy, c. AD 150)

In this 15th-century example of the Ptolemaic world map, the Indian Ocean is enclosed and there is no sea route around the Cape. The ‘inhabited’ (Old) World is massively inflated.

 

 

 

 

Lunar Eclipse (Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, 1019)

An illustration showing the different phases of the moon from al-Biruni’s manuscript copy of his Kitab al-Tafhim (Book of Instruction on the Principles of the Art of Astrology)

 

Christianson offers a definition:

diagram

From the latin diagramma (figure) from Greek, a figure worked out b lines, plan, from diagraphein, from graphein to write.

First known use of the word: 1619.

  1. A plan, a sketch, drawing, outline, not necessarily representational, designed to demonstrate or explain something or clarify the relationship existing between the parts of the whole.
  2. In mathematics, a graphic representation of an algebraic or geometric relationship. A chart or graph.
  3. A drawing or plan that outlines and explains the parts, operation, etc. of something: a diagram of an engine.

 

 

 

Dante’s Divine Comedy (Dante Alighieri, 1308-21)

A 19th-century interpretation of Dante’s map of Hell. The level of suffering and wickedness increases on the downward journey through the inferno’s nine layers. No original copies of Dante’s manuscript survive.

 

 

 

 

Vitruvian Man (Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1487

This sketch, and the notes that go with it, show how da Vinci understood the proportions of the human body. The head measured from the forehead to the chin was exactly one tenth of the total height, and the outstretched arms were always as wide as the body was tall.

 

 

 

 

Human Body (Andreas Vesalius, 1543)

Vesalius’s revolutionary anatomical treatise, De Humani Corporis Fabrica, shows the dissected body in unusually animated poses. These detailed diagrams are perhaps the most famous illustrations in all of medical history.

 

 

 

 

Heliocentric Universe (Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543)

Copernicus’s revolutionary view of the universe was crystallized in this simple yet disconcerting line drawing. His heliocentric model — which placed the Sun and not the Earth and the center of the universe — contradicted 14th-century beliefs.

 

 

 

 

The Four Books of Architecture

Palladio’s country villas, urban palazzos, and churches combined modern features with classical Roman principles. His designs were hailed as ‘the quintessence of High Renaissance calm and harmony.’

 

 

 

 

Flush Toilet (John Harington, 1596)

The text accompanying Harington’s diagram identified A as the ‘Cesterne,’ D as the ‘seate boord,’ H as the ‘stoole pot,’ and L as the ‘sluce.’ If used correctly, ‘your worst privie may be as sweet as your best chamber.’

 

 

 

 

Moon Drawings (Galileo Galilei, 1610)

Aided by his telescope, Galileo’s drawings of the moon were a revelation. Until these illustrations were published, the moon was thought to be perfectly smooth and round. Galileo’s sketches revealed it to be mountainous and pitted with craters.

 

 

 

 

Color Wheel (Moses Harris, 1766)

Moses Harris’s chart was the first full-color circle. The 18 colors of his wheel were derived from what he then called the three ‘primitive’ colors: red, yellow and blue. At the center of the wheel, Harris showed that black is formed by the superimposition of these colors.

 

 

 

 

A New Chart of History (Joseph Priestley, 1769)

The regularized distribution of dates on Priestley’s chart and its horizontal composition help to emphasize the continuous flow of time. This innovative, colorful timeline allowed students to survey the fates of 78 kingdoms in one chart.

 

 

 

 

Line Graph (William Playfair, 1786)

William Playfair was the first person to display demographic and economic data in graph form. His clearly drawn, color-coded line graphs show time on the horizontal axis and economic data or quantities on the vertical axis.

 

 

 

 

Emoticons (Puck Magazine, 1881)

Emoticons made a discreet entrance, arriving in print for the first time in this March 30, 1881 issue of Puck. The small item in the middle of this page gives four examples of ‘typographical art’ — joy, melancholy, indifference, and astonishment.

 

 

 

 

Treasure Island Map (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883)

While there is no evidence of real pirates ever leaving a ‘treasure map’ showing where they had buried their stolen goods, with ‘X’ marking the spot, Stevenson’s fictional device has continued to excite generations of children to this day.

 

 

 

 

Cubism and Abstract Art (Alfred Barr, 1936)

Barr’s striking diagram highlighted the role that cubism had played in the development of modernism. Like the exhibition and book that accompanied it, Barr’s diagram was a watershed in the history of 20th-century modernism.

 

 

 

 

Intel 4004 CPU (Ted Hoff, Stanley Mazor, Masatoshi Shima, Federico Faggin, Philip Tai, and Wayne Pickette, 1971)

Wayne Pickette suggested that Intel could use a ‘computer on a board’ for one of their projects with the Japanese company Busicom. Pickette drew this diagram with Philip Tai for the 4004 demonstration board.

 

Complement 100 Diagrams That Changed the World with 17 equations that changed the world and the fantastic Cartographies of Time.

Thanks, Kirstin

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by | December 29, 2012 · 9:55 pm

When Jesus Christ Visited Me in City Hall And Other bizarre and weird incidents

An article written by my father, Mark Jones. Very funny and informative.

 

Copyrighted 2012

Mark K. Jones

 

 

“Mention local government in casual conversation and you get responses ranging from outrage over the latest municipal scandals to discussions of the local tax increases, road construction delays, or maybe interest in who will run for mayor in the next election.   After retiring from 31 years in Cincinnati city government, what I remember is the strange situations and strange characters that City Hall seemed to attract.  My vivid memories of the weird and unusual characters who showed up in City Hall made a much deeper impression than the endless cycles of policy debates, political conflicts, and the like.

From the 1970’s to the early 2000’s, I worked in a number of different departments and offices within the City of Cincinnati:  Building Department, Department of Neighborhood Housing and Conservation, Economic Development Department, Community Development and Planning Department.  All involved administrative and operational work in housing development, neighborhood development, and business assistance programs.  It certainly had its ups and down from a career perspective, but I retired as a middle manager with a record of accomplishment.

But what is most memorable to me and catches the interest of my friends are the bizarre characters and situations that I encountered my years in city government.  Early in my city career I worked for the Building Department in an inner office with several other folks.  To enter that office, you had to walk through an outer office with three or four desks.  It was the typical warren you find in older city buildings where office space was cramped and jury-rigged to fit inflexible floor plans.  Both offices were busy places and the others were always coming and going.  

It was not uncommon for everyone to be out of the office with just one person remaining in the office.   One day, in the inner office, I looked up and a little balding man with a very red face was standing next to my desk.   He started demanding that I get the City to pay for fixing his car which had been damaged by a pothole.  “Sir,” I said, “I don’t have anything to do with that.”  I told him that he would have to go to another office and offered to show him the way.   He got very agitated and start shouting, “The City has to fix my car!”  All the time he was poking his finger into his forehead which was getting redder and redder.    Then he started shouting again and again, “There’s a plate in my head and it’s gonna blow!!”  Calmly I walked him out to the hallway and pointed him to the other office.   “Phew”…..I thought another wacko moved on and I could get back to work.

Back working on some report that everyone has long forgotten, I looked up again and there was a fireman in full gear and a big axe.  He asked me, “Where’s the bomb? There’s a bomb threat for this office.”   I gulped….”BOMB???”  I started to get up and evacuate.  But he stopped me and said I had to stay and identify any new packages or boxes that had arrived in the last day or so or those with unknown content.  The office was a mess as always with never enough file cabinets or storage, but it was the same recognizable mess and a quick look revealed no new or unidentifiable boxes.  He left within 5 minutes.  In retrospect, I guess that the fireman was playing with my mind, knowing that 99% of bomb threats were false.  But young, naïve me didn’t know that and I was frightened.   Then “Bingo”, I thought, it must have been the guy with the plate in his head!  I didn’t even get his name, but I called the Safety Director’s Office and shared my suspicions.  I never heard any more about this.

In the same office on another day, I looked up and there next to my desk was a young man in bib overalls, a plaid flannel shirt, and a bushy beard.   I started to ask him how I could help, but he interrupted me declaring, “I am Jesus Christ”.   I was dumbfounded….another nut, I thought!   So being quick witted (one of my only highly developed skill sets), I said, “Sir, because of the separation of church and state, I can’t talk with you.”   He wanted to know more about this separation of church and state.  I told him it was in the US Constitution and he asked where he could find more about this.  I directed him to the public library, hoping they had experience with nuts and could deal with him.  I ushered him out of the office with directions to the public library.   I grinned to myself and thought, “Another nutcase moved out of our office….”

Twenty or so minutes later, my phone rang and I answered still in a chipper mood.   It was the Mayor’s Office.  Did I send this “Jesus Christ” down to their office to ask about the US Constitution and separation of church and state?   “No…No, “I stammered, “I sent him to the public library for that information.”   Grumpily they accepted that answer and hung up.   One of the absolutes I learned early in my city career was about the chain of command.   You never directed anyone blindly to see the Mayor or City Manager; only higher management dealt with these exalted personages.

I am a big reader and in those years I often spent my lunch hour at the public library.  I would check books out and they would get tossed on the side of my desk or floor, where I would retrieve them upon leaving the office at the end of the day.    One of those books sitting neatly aligned upside down to me on the door side of my desk was an expose of the Teamster Union.   I recall that I had finished reading it and planned to return it to the library at lunch.  Again, busy another unread, useless report, I looked up and a large man in a very shiny and stylish suit stood next to my desk.  In a gruff voice, he announced that he was Joe (or Frank, Sam, etc.) from the Teamsters to see a Councilmember (name also forgotten).  I indicated that he should retrace his steps and walk down the hall further to the left.   He looked down and saw the book.  Accusingly, he asked, “You read this book?”   I lied (another example of my quick witted nature) and answered, “No, I just checked it out.”   As he turned to leave, he barked, “It’s a waste of your time; it’s garbage!”   I breathed a sigh of relief, no beating for me.    I was an alarmist and there surely was no beating or anything subtly or otherwise threatened, but he scared wimpy me.

These were some of my memorable encounters in a career than mostly prospered in my early years in city government.   In the early 1980’s when the housing development functions were moved into a new department, Neighborhood Housing and Conservation, I moved with the functions to another building about a block from City Hall.   It was very common for projects to fall far behind schedule because of delayed negotiations, tardy document preparations, and slow movement of paperwork through City Hall for execution and implementation.  I would then visit the Law Department, Budget Office, Finance Department, etc.  to persuade, cajole, beg, my fellow city employees to move projects along to the next bureaucratic stop.  This meant a walk down the block instead of down the hall.  

One beautiful spring day, I walked into the back door of City Hall.  I saw a young boy of 6 or 7 run up to the wall fire alarm and stand on this tip toes to pull the alarm.   The alarm blared and a neutral voice started giving instructions to evacuate the building.  I gently grabbed the young boy’s arm to hold him for the authorities.  A young woman ran around the hallway corner and shouted “Let Go of My Son!!!”  I retorted, “He pulled the alarm”.  She smacked the side of my head with her fist, grabbed her son, and ran out of the back entrance to City Hall.  Stunned, I watched the hundreds of city workers stream down the stairway and out the back exit of City Hall.   Defeated I walked out to the sidewalk and waited for the fire truck.   I told the first fire fighter what had happened and he laughed, “It’s nice day for a fire drill.”  It had happened so fast I couldn’t give much of a description of the mother and son and the firemen didn’t seem to care anyways.

But those were also the years that I was a close observer to some less benign incidents.  One very dramatic one involved a character named Jimmy Hardy.   According to talk around the office, Jimmy had been in and out of prison on a number of charges.   He had notoriously organized a downtown march celebrating local hero and Olympic and Pro boxer Aaron Pryor, secured a parade route, and invited local politicians to honor Pryor.  Of course, Pryor had no knowledge of the event and didn’t show up, though there still was a Jimmy Hardy parade and prominent officials scrambled to avoid embarrassment.  On another occasion, Jimmy announced on the local African-American radio station that teenagers needing summer jobs should show up at that week’s City Council meeting.   Hundreds showed up and City Council unaware of the job promise tried to proceed with its normal meeting.  A near riot broke out. 

In the mid 1980’s, I was assigned to development efforts in the West End neighborhood and the Betts-Longworth Historic District Project (BLHD) and became directly involved with Jimmy Hardy.   Cincinnati is a city of strong neighborhood identifications.   Neighborhoods have local community councils with strictly advisory powers, but council politics can be highly contested and conflictive.  Jimmy Hardy was involved in the West End community.   It had a small, sad business district and occasionally one of the two competing neighborhood business district groups would ask me to go door to door to the local businesses and discuss the City’s small business assistance programs with the business owners.   At that time, the West End housing was overwhelmingly public housing and the neighborhood’s residents only had cash to spend at these businesses the first week of the month, after welfare checks arrived.   It was incredibly difficult to run a thriving business when your customers only had money to spend in the first week of the month.   Jimmy let me know several times in asides during meetings that he had seen me making my business development calls to the West End’s small businesses.  That is, “through the scope of my high powered rifle” he told me that he had watched me making these calls.  Being young and probably naïve, I dismissed these comments and kept fruitlessly passing out brochures on City small business assistance programs. 

Getting shot became a topic of concern again a few years later, when we met with the police about safety at another local community council meeting.  We discussed whether it was prudent for us to wear Kevlar vests.  The police thought that the meeting would be peaceful and the shooting threats were just idle talk.   We didn’t wear the vests and the meeting was placid.  Another day in a meeting in the Budget Office, we heard four or five loud bangs.  I thought out loud, “Were those gunshots?”  They were; it was a West End businessperson murdering a West End activist in the street in front of City Hall. 

But Jimmy Hardy was not out of my City Hall life yet.  The BLHD was a collection of early vacant, historic 19th century row houses and apartment buildings that remained after Urban Renewal and construction of public housing had demolished most of the historic buildings in the West End.  These were scheduled for demolition until the historic conservation movement gained currency in the early 1970’s and the City pledged to get these historic buildings restored.   A decade or so of plans for rehab and restoration had failed and I was assigned to get this neighborhood brought back.   At the time I thought that this would be impossible and this would be the end of my career. 

The next plan called for a Chicago developer to redevelop all properties.   This was understood to be the last chance; failure, we thought, would mean demolition of all the buildings and light industrial development.   We held the inevitable evening meeting with the developer, neighborhood representatives, and Vice-Mayor Ken Blackwell (African-American and chair of the Council Finance Committee).   Jimmy Hardy was one of the neighborhood activists.   The Chicago developers proceeded to outline their plan and answer questions.   Ken Blackwell is a large man; he played college football and briefly pro football.  Jimmy Hardy was a small man, slight and barely over 5 feet tall.   As the meeting progressed, Jimmy and Ken keep exchanging what I perceived as “FUCK YOU” looks.  Suddenly Blackwell and Harding stood up and started fighting!!  Blackwell had Harding in a head lock and was smashing uppercuts into Jimmy as best I could tell as they rocked and stumbled around.  Another lady West End activist jumped on to Blackwell’s back repeatedly shouting “You’re gonna kill him!!”  The rest of us were absolutely stunned and immobilized with shock.  Then suddenly, they stopped fighting.   To my amazement, everyone sat back down at the large conference table and the meeting resumed.   I could only sit there and wonder….”What the HELL was going on?”   Within a few minutes, a policeman walked into the room and said, “What’s the problem?”   I can only guess that someone must have called the police during the fight.   Blackwell calmly told the officer that everything was under control and the officer left.   The meeting soon ended and everyone went their separate ways.

For days afterwards, I kept waiting for the press to call me.  Surely, a fight between the powerful Ken Blackwell and a neighborhood activist would merit press interest?  And I absolutely did not want to be part of any press interest or media story concerning a fist fight involving the Vice-Mayor.  But the press never called and I never discussed the incident again until years afterwards.   This Chicago developer proposal for BLHD never got funded.   Instead the BLHD project went forward with a different, but very successful rehab and new residential construction program for BLHD that won a number of national awards.   Despite the huge success of this redevelopment, I was never able to interest new Councilmembers, City Managers, and new Department Directors in trying the same model in other neighborhoods.

Later in my career, my job responsibilities were more in the areas of small business development and small business loans.  I would regularly get calls from the receptionist and walk out to meet with some small businessman or aspirant small business person.  Often, they declared, “I want some of that Free Money!”   There was a public perception that the City had money to give out with no strings attached, no interest, and no repayment for small businesses.   City Council members would often refer citizens interested in small business assistance to our office.   This could lead to some amazing meetings with these applicants.

The applicants were a real hodgepodge of types and qualities.  Some had extensive business plans; others had financial information on scratch paper or note pads.  Many proposals did not seem to have any chance of success.  Several stand out.   One gentleman came in with a proposal to start a bakery.  He had an extensive business plan with detailed financial projections.   As a colleague and I perused his documents, it was clear that this proposed start-up had a very large number of employees, especially supervisors.   Usually successful small businesses kept employees to an absolute minimum and the owners overworked themselves in the first few years to insure success.   We reviewed the roster of proposed employees with the applicant:  Bakery Supervisor, Bread Supervisor, Snack and Donut Supervisor, etc.  We asked where the he fit into this matrix.   “Oh no,” the prospective bakery proprietor replied, “I’m allergic to flour.  I can’t work at the bakery.  But I love the idea of bread, donuts, and the like.”  We politely concluded the meeting and told him we would review his proposal in detail.   

It was always difficult to finance restaurants.   Restaurants have a very high failure rate and usually involve substantial investor funding.   I always cringed when aspirant restaurateurs opened a meeting with, “I love to cook.”  Running a successful restaurant is so much more than just “loving to cook”.  An applicant came in for an introductory meeting one day with a proposal for a chic Manhattan/Soul Food fusion restaurant in a neighborhood business district setting.  There was a business plan, financial projections, and a very professionally printed elegant menu.  Except that many items on the menu were misspelled.   “Fried Chiken Mahettn” accompanied other items like “Grets and Greyns”.   The spelling was inconsistent.  He seemed offended when we asked about the spelling errors.  He assured us that they were just minor mistakes.  This restaurant did open without City assistance and lasted a couple of years before closing.

I always argued that when we (as the City’s representatives) failed to say bluntly and honestly that a proposal made no sense and had no prospect for success in our opinion, we were just raising false expectations.  Instead we would tell the applicant that we would carefully study their proposal.  If the applicant was persistent, we would ask for market studies, more financials, more of something in the hope that they would go away.   Some applicants would persist for months and years as we strung them out with requests for more information.  But the City just could not muster the courage to be honest and frank, that was too confrontational and risky from a political perspective.   Saying “No” to citizens did you no good with the City Administration and politicians.  Denied applicants complained to the politicians and the higher administrators feared the backlash from these complaints.  So we strung out the applications that had no chance of approval with requests for more information or more documentation.

There are probably local government employees in back offices that rarely interact with the public.  But I expect that the many employees that do interact with the public have stories similar to mine.   So next time you have any contact with municipal officials, please remember that they may have just had to deal with someone who is not as rational and calm as you are.  Be a little forgiving.   The post 9/11 security measures may have lessened the number of nutcases and weirdo’s that visit municipal facilities.  But the tradition that local government is open to everyone will probably keep these types walking into local government offices.”

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Filed under Spotlights

Finding an Audience, for a Cause

 

By TANZINA VEGA

Published: December 17, 2012

“DOCUMENTARY films are notoriously difficult to finance, with filmmakers often spending more time scrounging up money to make a film than actually producing it. Unlike big Hollywood films, where having the presence of a marquee name can attract dollars, documentary filmmakers often must try to explain how a niche idea can succeed at the box office.

The director and backers of “Girl Rising,” a documentary that is a cornerstone of a media campaign about educating girls around the world, hope to change that. To promote the new film, and demonstrate the impact that documentaries can have on audiences, they will rely on technologies often used by more traditional advertisers, including personalized ads for employees of companies viewing them online.

“If what you are after is engagement and connection to a cause,” said Richard E. Robbins, the director, “how you use the tools that are available to you is very different than if you are trying to market ‘Batman.’ ”

Money donated by consumers seeing the film will be funneled to a nonprofit group, 10×10, which will then distribute the funds to various nonprofits helping to educate girls.

Many documentary filmmakers have trouble quantifying the social and financial impact their films can have, Mr. Robbins said. And many are confronted with “a dearth of evidence to support the idea that documentary films affect change.”

But using highly targeted advertising can help filmmakers learn who is donating, how much they are donating, how much interest there is in a film and whether there is enough interest to warrant a screening in a city, he said. Having that information might also help persuade future investors to support documentaries connected to causes.

“Girl Rising,” which will be released in March, is being financed in part by 10×10, which supports educating girls around the world through film and social media advocacy.

Ads promoting “Girl Rising” will be shown to employees of 57 companies that the filmmakers selected in hopes they will support efforts to educate girls in developing countries. Those companies include Apple, Bank of America, Oracle, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Disney and Procter & Gamble.

“Those companies are deeply invested in vibrant economies overseas, healthy supply chains, diversity, attracting and retaining and identifying new employees, skilled employees,” said Holly Gordon, executive director at 10×10. “We thought that they would be advocates for these issues of gender diversity and global education.”

Employees at the companies will see ads on their computers at work, customized to use the company name. For example, an Oracle employee will see an ad that says “Oracle employees can change the world,” with a link to see a trailer for the film and donate to the cause.

A group of former ABC News journalists, known as the Documentary Group, and Vulcan Productions announced the creation of 10×10 and its media campaign at the United Nation’s first International Day of the Girl in October. Additional funds for organization came from Intel, the Ford Foundation, Google, the Nike Foundation, the Skoll Foundation and the Fledgling Fund.

“Girl Rising,” the first film backed by the group, features stories inspired by nine girls in countries like Haiti, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Afghanistan. Some of the segments are narrated by celebrities like Meryl Streep, Selena Gomez and Kerry Washington.

Well-known writers from each of the countries, including Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American author, and Edwidge Danticat of Haiti helped to write the stories of each of the girls to whom they were paired. Each story will be presented differently; some will be animated while others will be live action.

Chris Golec, the chief executive of Demandbase, the company behind the ads, said technology that aimed at the Internet addresses at the companies would be used to find the right users for each ad.

“Targeting people at work is four times more likely to drive engagement than somebody coming from a residential I.P. address,” said Mr. Golec, referring to the Internet addresses of home viewers. “If you personalize the ad with the company name that they work for you get a three times higher click through rate on the ad.”

Using such digital advertising also helps the filmmakers and producers in another way, said Mr. Robbins. “It’s infinitely more trackable, there’s so much more data,” he said. “We can measure conversion rates, who our audience is — its not just anonymous people buying tickets.”

Distribution of “Girl Rising” will be in phases, beginning in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where one chapter will be shown. It will make its official debut in March for International Women’s Day at an event in New York City, and with a smaller event in Los Angeles. CNN will show the film in June as part of the network’s new film division.

Organizers are also using technology to get viewers to book a screening of the film in the city of their choice. Supporters of 10×10 will receive an e-mail asking them to go to a Web site, Gathr.us, which will keep track of the number of screening requests from various cities.”

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by | December 29, 2012 · 9:47 pm