Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back in the States! First stop, LA

I figured of all the days to add to the blog, this is it! On my first voyage back to the States from Australia, I left Sydney at noon on December 22nd and arrived in LA earlier than when I left Sydney: 7am, December 22nd.

When was the last time I had a 41 hour day? This is a day for recreational literature!

In the spirit of my new theme to add more drawings to the blog, I think it's fitting to pick a classic Sydney sight since I won't see it again until 2010. Here's the recognizable lifeguard station on Tamarama beach. One landmark along the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk that has become my favorite route for a ritual run.

Looking out of my window in the plane on arrival in LA, I was amazed to see the amount of traffic on the roads as early as 6am, before the sun was up. Maybe I'll get away from this computer and get a taste of Tinsel Town before leaving for North Carolina tomorrow.

Safe travels, Michelle! I'll see you at the LAX Radisson :) This place is nice! Near to the Getty Museum, too...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bright Star

Qirkz in Marrickville - Oscar Jimenez Dec 19, 2009

Inspired by my colleague's video blog account of our recent trip to Qirkz in Marrickville, I wanted to post the sketch, above.

This performance was Oscar Jimenez, who had quite a following. I don't know if he told everyone to come dressed up like flappers and pre-depression era gangsters, but people were dressed to impress! Everyone was so polished last night! I felt dressed about as well as the guy making our delicious pizza from the wood burning oven downstairs.

The best part, I have to say, was the company I went with and being able to hang out at the end of the night on a balcony overlooking the Randwick Racecourse and keeping the party going with some home-spun DJ talent. Qirkz certainly set the tone for the evening. I hope to make that a trend! They won't have any new performances until the New Year.

Worth waiting for!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Creative Relapse

Life experience lately leads to the mention of a few things. First the "Theory U" retreat to Kangaroo Valley with Catalyst 2030 working towards Sustainable Ground and Sustainable Sydney 2030, second the subsequent art opening of Aaron Fuller's photography at Tortuga Studios in Sydney, and third the burning desire after watching Waltz with Bashir to communicate my style of art effectively and strive for a lasting cultural impact.

It sounds lofty, but it's all a part of the process. Theory U is a working approach to getting from point A to point B. In what I want to accomplish, I must first leave where I am and aspire to arrive where I want to be. Let's say that process is leaving the left side of a U and traveling to the other. There is a gaping chasm in between. This is the space of individual self-knowledge and negotiation that can be explored in places like Kangaroo Valley Bush Retreat.

With a group of twenty people we approached our objectives in holding the Sustainable Grounds Cafe of Cafe's event coming up. On Tuesday August 25th the owners of Sydney's most prominent Cafes will gather in the Botanical Gardens for a World Cafe style event. As all owners create a collective ownership of their experience on the 25th, we as a core group of Catalyst 2030 formed our own ownership over the weekend retreat.

As Barack Obama mentions in The Audacity of Hope, my painful realisations in my Theory U experience are the same worthless qualities of my flawed existence that I grew tired of years ago. I am now reminded of what I was hoping to forget, which is interesting because at the start of the retreat I mentioned that I wanted to actively remember. By actively remembering what we have been taught not only within our lifetimes but within the lifetime of our existence on this planet as we know it, we might start finding answers to questions we have forgotten to ask.

Coming back into the MBA life was a shock to the system, but it's my preferred shock given the alternatives. After a week of being humbled further by Midterm results I had an interview at Stryker on Wednesday. That boosted my confidence and I hope to report further in a future post. By week's end I attended a Catalyst 2030 colleagues opening on Friday at Tortuga Studios. Aaron Fuller had photography was among the more refined work on display, and humbly priced in the open auction format. No doubt he priced to them for a quick sale as he left the next day for Melbourne to attend Al Gore's Asia Pacific Climate Project through the Australian Conservation Foundation

All that inspiration feeds directly into the courses I have registered for next session, but I'll write more on that later. I was thankful for another break on Saturday when two classmates had birthdays over the weekend and gave the AGSM MBA cohort an excuse to gather on Saturday. Later that night I was further inspired musically by Martini Club, who never disappoint. By the time I made it back to my place to assault my Strategy binder with a highlighter I had been able to watch Waltz with Bashir. That movie made me so grateful to be alive and living beyond a war zone that the fuel of my internal fire is burning brighter and needs to come out.

Put it all together and I had scribbled more strategy notes for the ETA Cafe in my moleskine while downloading The Window, a new album by my old favorite Shirlette Ammons and her Mosadi Music. That is a nice addition to my collection after sharing the work of her former collaborator Applejuice in his new partnership with Suede from Camp Lo. Their collaboration, Freebass 808 has been keeping my ears busy for weeks.

I'm feeling the wave of creation my soulbrothers and soulsisters are fueling, and completed a new track, "relapse" that I started in Kangaroo Valley, somewhere at the bottom of my "U". It's based on lyrics I wrote in 2003 as I'm pulling from sketchbooks dating back to 1999 that I scanned onto my MacBook before leaving the States. You can read the lyrics and sing along at Reverb Nation.

Or you could just click on the Reverb Nation Player widget in the right margin...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flat Black Helicopter

In the first of what may become a new series of posts, I'll be sharing a series of web search results based on a dream I had. I was working on a film set for some crazy Australian director, (I can't wait to meet him!) and the cast and crew were on the top of a hill overlooking a valley. There was a huge glass-blowing furnace that everyone was fueling by breathing into long tube stuck into the furnace. And they were all dressed like Dickensian Paupers. I know.

What inspired this post, however is what happened right at the end. I was looking at the moon, and saw a little flicker of red light just beyond it. After all of my crop circle research lately, I was thinking of what the first sign of Nibiru will be like from Earth. But as always, that's another story.

With unbelievable speed the source of came zooming towards the hilltop. At a distance it looked like a helicopter. Here's where it gets fun. That prompted me to look up what I thought it looked like. The first image came from Artist Christopher Conte. This guy is a true Leonardo da Vinci type. He is a trained artist that design prosthetics and biomachines, in addition to a unmanned helicopter for the military that looks close to the craft in my dream pictured up top. Check him out.

As the helicopter dramatically dropped below the ridgeline, only to emerge seconds later and come directly overhead, people noticed and started questioning what it was. As it got closer it looked nothing like this folding Hummel Helicopter, but that's another interesting search result. It actually looked like a flat black sting ray with short wings. It was directly overhead, within a meter of our heads. It got closer and closer until it was directly over me. At this point I had that feeling that my life had just taken a turn for the bizarro X-files.

To my relief I woke up and, to my knowledge, haven't been the subject of an abduction. The closest match to "Flat Black Helicopter" was actually a new beer brewed with coffee called the "Flat Earth Black Helicopter", oddly enough, as described by Aaron Landry. To give you the full background and draw you pictures of what I really saw in my dream, we'll have to discuss it over a cold one.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Durham, NC in Top Ten Places to Live

I love Durham. Directly from the U.S. News & World Report...

Best Places to Live 2009
U.S. News & World Report, 09 June 2009

U.S. News & World Report looked at areas with strong economies, low living costs, and plenty of fun things to do.

With the decade winding to a close, Americans have grown increasingly reluctant to gas up their moving vans. Last year, the Census Bureau's national mover rate—which represents the percentage of Americans 1 year and older who moved within the past year—hit its lowest level since 1948, when the bureau began tracking the data. And who can blame us? In the face of a terrifying banking crisis, a historic housing crash, and a grueling recession, relocating to a new city isn't exactly on the to-do list. But despite the uncertain economy, the nation's diverse topography presents an enviable menu of great places to find work, retire, or just change your scene.

In selecting our Best Places to Live for 2009, U.S. News took a thrift-conscious approach: We looked for affordable communities that have strong economies and plenty of fun things to do. The cities we selected are as distinct as America itself—ranging from a quaint suburb to a live-music mecca. But whether you prefer hiking through the Rocky Mountains, pulling a fish out of the Atlantic Ocean, or grilling hot dogs at a college football tailgate, here are 10 places that will fill up your daybook without emptying your wallet...

Durham, North Carolina
Once a tobacco town, Durham, N.C., has evolved into a world-class center of all things advanced. This city of 206,000, located halfway between the Atlantic coast and the Great Smoky Mountains, is called the "City of Medicine" because of its expansive healthcare industry. And although widely known as the home of prestigious Duke University, it's also a thriving technology hub. At the same time, Durham's mild climate allows residents to get out and explore the region's abundant outdoor attractions. Consider hiking one of the many distinct trails and greenways or heading over to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for an afternoon baseball game.

More on Durham...

The Nine Other Best Places to Live...

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Along the banks of the Rio Grande, with the Sandia Mountains in the background, is the beautiful city of Albuquerque, N.M. The sunny climate and endless landscape have long drawn writers, poets, and artists to this spot, which includes an unconventional mix of American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures. But it's not just freethinkers who drift to this Southwestern city of 511,000. Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, and Intel Corp. have helped develop the area into a manufacturing and research hub. They provide a stable anchor for the local economy.

Auburn, Alabama
For Southern charm with collegiate vigor, consider Auburn, Ala. This diamond on the eastern Alabama plains has a population of just under 50,000 and is home to Auburn University. On football Saturdays, when die-hard fans arrive in droves to cheer their beloved Tigers, Auburn swells to the state's fifth-most-populous city. And as Auburn's largest employer, the university also plays a starring role in the local economy.

Austin, Texas
If you're a free spirit, music junkie, or barbecue lover—or if you simply have what it takes to "keep Austin weird"—Texas's state capital is for you. Considered ground zero for live music, this city of 716,000 residents is home to legions of musicians and nearly 200 performance venues. In addition, Austin hosts the always popular South by Southwest festival. Since its inception in 1987, the event has mushroomed from a local gathering to a 1,800-band, 80-stage extravaganza of music, filmmaking, and interactive activities featuring performers from all over the world. Austin is also a high-tech hub, with companies like Dell and IBM, which employ thousands of residents.

Boise, Idaho
Although often overlooked, Boise, Idaho, is a terrific destination for those looking to escape out West. With a high-desert climate of sunshine, clear skies, and four distinct seasons, this city of 200,000 makes a perfect base camp for exploring southwest Idaho's dramatic panorama. Choose from the many nearby parks, which total some 2,700 acres, cast a fishing line into the Boise River, or head over to Boise State University for a Broncos football game.

La Crosse, Wisconsin
With a population of about 50,000, La Crosse, Wis., is a great staging ground for exploring the natural wonders of the upper Mississippi River area. Although winters can be bitterly cold, friendly Midwesterners and the nearby ski slopes will keep your spirits high. The spring opens an active outdoor culture of camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing that brings more than a million visitors to the area each year. Explore the mighty Mississippi on a riverboat tour, or try your luck with the northern pike in Lake Onalaska. "Great people, fun town," says Dave Lueck, a 36-year-old graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "It's not too big, not too small." And with a 2008 median home sale price of $113,000, it's also an affordable destination.

Loveland, Colorado
Located just outside the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park, Loveland, Colo., is considered the "Gateway to the Rockies." But while it has 27 public parks and nearly 16 miles of recreation trails, it's Loveland's affection for man-made beauty that sets this community of 56,000 residents apart. Thanks to its Art in Public Places program, more than 300 pieces of sculpture and two-dimensional works are on display throughout the community. And with a 2008 median home sale price of $186,000, the area's real estate market is relatively affordable.

San Luis Obispo, California
Tucked into California's sweeping Central Coast region is lovely San Luis Obispo, Calif. Its warm, gentle climate, with temperatures rarely surpassing 90 degrees, is perfect for hitting nearby beaches or touring local vineyards. In addition, California Polytechnic State University, which is located in town, infuses the community with intellectual energy.

St. Augustine, Florida
As the nation's longest continually inhabited European-founded city, St. Augustine, Fla., considers itself the oldest city in the United States. Founded in 1565 by Spanish Adm. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, this community of 13,000 residents on Florida's northeastern coast has managed to maintain its colonial charm. Take the Castillo de San Marcos, for example. This remarkable stone-and-mortar fort is located right in the heart of St. Augustine's cobblestoned historic district. And even though 300 years of violent storms and enemy firepower couldn't penetrate its walls, visitors can enter the 20.5-acre monument site today for just $6.

Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania
For a quiet residential option, consider Upper St. Clair, Pa. This quaint town of fewer than 20,000 residents is located in the hilly woodlands outside Pittsburgh, where the Whiskey Rebellion of the late 1700s was centered. The median home price of this family-oriented community was $240,000 in 2008. And its school system is superb: Ninety-eight percent of its high school graduates go on to college, and the Upper St. Clair school district currently boasts 10 federal government blue-ribbon "Excellence in Education" awards.

See a slideshow of the 10 best places to live...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Global Sustainability Summits

All over the world we can find Summits on Sustainability. Just in Sydney and my favorite town, Durham, NC there are two strong examples happening this week. What drove me to write this immediately rather than study Finance was the amazing mention of Australian Transition Towns within Durham's Summit on the New Green Economy. My very existence is reinforced by this connection, and I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time.

The United States Study Center at the University of Sydney is holding a National Summit entitled "Sustainable Globalisation: Will it Survive the GFC?" My short answer for them is YES, but if you check out their website at you'll see a long list of Speakers and a link to an even longer list on their Summit Program page.

The event is sponsored in part by the Economist, the Macquarie Group, and an academic partnership with the Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies. It's all so awesome. I wish I could go but I have class and some worthwhile AGSM Diversity Week activities to attend.

Meanwhile on the other side of the globe in my home away from home is the Summit on the New Green Economy in Durham, North Carolina. If you read the list of speakers at this event, they are giving the National Summit in Sydney a run for their money! The event is sponsored and organized by SJF Ventures, a Socially Responsible Venture Capital fund managed between offices in New York, NY and Durham, NC. That is amazing news. With the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham every year sponsored by the New York Times, half of New York shows up every spring. I invite this wholeheartedly. I think half of New York should outsource their operations to Durham. People are starting to figure it out!

SJF is a visionary leader providing venture capital to companies that share their ethics. They have a list of case studies on their site. Don't be surprised to find my work on that list some day! Between Durham and Sydney there is a wealth of resources I am discovering more everyday. Sustainable Sydney 2030 has been my mantra, and through the network of Creative Catalysts coming out of the woodwork during Vivid Sydney, the social resource available is overwhelming.

I will continue to surround myself with the reality that I believe in, and in time find my footing for a giant leap.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Durham Home Ownership Month

I'm so proud of my neighbor Tonya Wall! She pretty much sums up how I feel about Eastway Village, site of the celebration around Home Ownership next week, in the quote in the article below. In a parallel universe, I would be celebrating with them June 6th.

Some developers really understand the value of East Durham. Anyone spending time in the amazing Goldenbelt space will attest to the fact that our neighborhood is a great place to live. Even though I'm currently in Australia, I left part of my heart in Durham.

Durham Celebrates National Homeownership Month in June

City to Celebrate Completion of Eastway Village

DURHAM, N.C. - The City of Durham has slated a month-long list of free activities and events to celebrate National Homeownership Month and help Durham residents become - or remain - responsible homeowners.

The City's Department of Community Development kicks off the month with the Eastway Village Neighborhood Festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 6, 2009, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. This neighborhood celebration, designed especially for the existing homeowners, is to acknowledge the final phase of the Eastway Village development nearing completion with most of the 47 single family homes and condominiums sold or under contract.

According to Tonya Wall, a new resident of Eastway Village since 2007, her decision to purchase her first home in this revitalized location was an easy decision to make. "Eastway Village is affordable, attractive, and convenient to my job. I am glad to see the diversity among my neighbors and I take pride in living in Eastway Village," Wall said. "I am currently a block captain in my neighborhood and a PAC 1 member. I think my neighbors are great because we all believe in reaching out to others in the community. A special thank you goes out to Mayor Bell, Durham City Council, City of Durham employees, and Blue Ridge Construction for having the vision and commitment for the revitalization of the old Barnes Avenue area. It's wonderful to see so many caring people involved in improving the quality of life in Northeast Central Durham."

For more information on any of these events, or to learn more about homeownership, foreclosure assistance, homelessness prevention, fair housing information, or homebuyer tax credits, call the City's Homeownership Hotline at (919) 560-4000 or log onto the City's Web site at

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nanotechnology from Nokia

This video just blew my mind! I'm working on the Sydney, Australia version of the ETA Cafe business plan, part of which is to partner with and pioneer developing technologies at the University level to bring them to market. UNSW has some leading solar and nanotechnologies, but this is one of the best illustrations of what's to come:

Now, to be fair and balanced, nanotechnology production does pose a lot of threats. We have no idea what happens to the environment when we introduce complex materials that are small enough to breath and could lodge themselves in our lungs. We simply have no idea what may happen with the introduction of new molecular sized structures into the ecosystem.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Health Care Story for Obama

I recently submitted this story upon Barack Obama's request of his fellow Americans at

The last company I worked before currently enrolling in business school held a meeting with a health care representative talking about changes in the company's coverage. The costs were going up for everyone, and I know these people weren't making enough to live comfortably in the face of rise in costs. I encouraged my co-workers to push for legislation to change the health care system, as that is our right in a democratic country. I spoke with the representative after his presentation and he was doubtful things would ever change, even though he willingly recognized the injustice in where the money goes and how people are denied their health care coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

My recent partner and dear friend has been hit with rising costs for her own pre-existing condition and was faced with financial pressure from her family when she moved back to the United States from Australia for her sister's wedding. She is fully covered under the Australian government health system as a Permanent Resident, shown here talking to her family back in the States after a trip to Austin Hospital in Melbourne. Back in the US, however, her health care per month is nearing $1000. Families are expected to live and grow together, but when affordable medical care is not available in the United States, other countries like Australia are more accommodating. As a US Citizen I stand for our country to make the right health care policy for our people, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we otherwise become a liability for other countries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Wagga Wagga Weekend

The day was Friday May 15th. We had just finished our first round of finals at AGSM and been rewarded with two weeks of vacation. I came across an email newsletter from the Australian Graphic Design Association that mentioned the Australian International Animation Festival. In an ostentatious display of abject freedom I woke up Saturday morning, hopped in a borrowed car, and hit the road for Wagga Wagga. I say that because when I am completely free I can't help but fly by the seat of my pants. My utter enjoyment comes in the face of the sheer terror this would present to a normal person with any inkling of obligations and a schedule. I am in a rare position of personal freedom and I wear it like the badge it is; good and bad. Good because free is fun, but bad because I feel the world isn't built by capricious people. Or maybe it can be. I'm not sure yet but I'm determined to find out.

With a bag packed just shy of a cartoon character's handkerchief at the end of a stick, I was off toward Wagga Wagga and the Animation Festival. When I got there I was struck by the professional charm of the receptionist at the Townhouse International where I had made my reservation. After she had made quite an impression on me with her interest in the festival and armed with her positive directions, I found the FORUM 6 Cinema and made my entrance into the overwhelming interconnection among undergrad animation students just in time to catch the International Program #2 part of the schedule. There was a short break and then the racy part of the schedule commenced with the Late Night Bizarre. The program ended with the Superjail pilot from Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. It is HILARIOUSLY INAPPROPRIATE.

After the screenings I had an awesome conversation with an animator from Blue Tongue in Melbourne about a project he's working on. I really enjoyed listening to him, which corresponds to this quote I read from the Dalai Lama and reminded me of someone "speciar" back in the States:

"It is through listening that your mind will turn with faith and devotion, and you will be able to cultivate joy within your mind and make your mind stable. It is through listening that you will be able to cultivate wisdom and be able to remove ignorance. Therefore , it is worthwhile to engage in listening even if it costs your life.
Listening is like a torch that dispels the darkness of ignorance. And if you are able to make your mental continuum wealthy through listening, no one can steal that wealth. It is supreme wealth."

Sunday started with another conversation at the reception desk. I took my new friend's advice and went to the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and National Art Glass Gallery, pictured above. I was thoroughly impressed, and inspired to find more inspiration. I went and bought a dozen CD's. Rather than going right back to the Animation Festival, I rebelled from my own rebellion and spent that sunny afternoon driving around town in search of the highest point on a nearby hillside. I wanted to soak up the full view of this little town that had already made quite an impression on me, not to mention the second conversation I had with the Townhouse receptionist. It turns out she's a Psychology student who recently discovered she can draw. I will not stop until she is fully encouraged! I couldn't help but invite her to the evening screenings that night. I drove up Lord Baden Powell Drive past the Museum of the Riverina and found the view I was looking for.

I motored down the hill listening to the Greatest Hits of Arrested Development and absolutely loving it. I drove past the train station where I know I'll be arriving again someday soon. By the time I made it back to my obligation at the festival I caught the end of the Animation 103 and 104 Seminars from the People's Republic of Animation in Adelaide and Jonathan Nix of Cartwheel Partners based in Sydney. The organizers of the festival agreed that these two were the best presenters ever, and I felt lucky to meet them.

I don't have any pictures to prove it, but the night took an amazing turn when I got a call towards the end of International Program #3 from none other than the Townhouse receptionist, whose identity I continue to protect with my utmost respect and admiration. We decided to have a quick dinner before returning for the Digital Panorama part of the program. We ended up having a number of drinks after dinner at the All Seasons Pavilion, and I enjoyed a wonderful night of wholesome company and honest conversation. We caught the rest of the Animation gang at their last round of drinks and I promised to see them again next year.

I have to say my departure on Monday was hesitant. My mind was playing with all sorts of ideas of settling down in Wagga Wagga, but I had to make it back to Sydney for the Sustainability Showcase at UNSW, and to feed the fish of my dear friend at AGSM. On the way down I traveled the Hume Highway, so on my return I chose to head north through the Blue Mountains back to Sydney. I was continuously impressed with the level of culture in the small cities like Cowra, population 13,100, and Cootamundra, home of the Milestone Sculpture pictured above. In the United States, a city of 13,000 in the middle of nowhere echoes the film Deliverance, while in Australia I was completely blown away with the level of culture I experienced.

As the sun set on my Wagga Wagga Weekend, I had gained everything I imagined and much, much more. I imagine the conversations I shared will fuel my actions far into the future... or at least until Session 2 at AGSM once again predominates my vision. We'll see. I owe a special thanks to the owner of my borrowed car. My life would feel much different if I hadn't afforded myself this experience with the resources available. She must be as happy as I am. Reading from the scroll now hanging in my little studio...

"Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Awoken by a Leaping Genius

After being awake for two ungodly hours in the early, early morning I am finally reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk on Nurturing Creativity. It seems, as I awoke from a dream with a shout, that I have been possessed with one of the most vibrant "genius" sessions I've had in a while. Only now am I typing after I've written creative ideas for the ETA Cafe, AGSM Events, and the next screenplay I'm working on called Paradigm Lost (Paradigm Louvst if you're nasty), but that's on the down low.

The way Gilbert puts it, and especially after tonight I must agree, is that we artistic people have no control over our lives. (What an awesome scape goat THAT is!) The ancient Greeks, (and now Elizabeth, her TED audience, and myself) believe that it was not the artist who creates the work of art, but a "genius"; a spirit that comes out of nowhere, uninvited, and causes a flood of activity ending in the creation of some lasting contribution.

There I was, sleeping before the first of our four finals at AGSM, happily immersed in yet another flying dream. In this dream I was actually leaping from tree branch to tree branch in a giant rain forest. The trees were so tall their limbs were the size of train cars, and the ground was so distant that I couldn't tell which way was up exactly.

In the leaping and lurching I happened upon a dwelling in a cave, guarded surprisingly by Jeff Storer! In my dream I must have been some wild-looking mutant tree frog, as I startled Cavekeeper Jeff. He shouted, I shouted, and the next thing I know I'm awake at 3:00am with more thoughts running through my head than ants on a bird carcass.

My genius happened by at the right time. For the next four days I will continue around the clock to earn my keep towards the MBA, and may not be available. (Are you listening, spirits?) Or maybe I'll be visited by a genius every morning; hardly the worst way to live.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Defense of Zeitgeist and Role Models

I love being exposed to new sources of news and information. I was entertained by the insights of Public Christianity recently sent to me by a respected elder. In the video, Dr. Chris Forbes of Macquarie University enjoyed playing down the movement that now includes Zeitgeist Addendum, featured not only on YouTube but also in credible journals like The New York Times.

Peter Joseph, producer of Zeitgeist, has thankfully moved away from religious debate and is now focused on solutions to the current financial crisis. By delving deeper into the US Fiscal Policy segment of Zeitgeist, his shared vision with inventor Jacques Fresco offers a solution to the greed and scarcity that are a part of the current system I also aim to change. That's why I'm here pursuing the AGSM MBA at the Australian School of Business.

In Dr. Chris Forbes' defense, perhaps unlike Peter Joseph I have no problem with the story of Christ as a role model. However, rather than Dr. Forbes I choose as my scholar of choice Dr. Bart D. Ehrman. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wrote an insightful book, Misquoting Jesus, which conveys how the story of Jesus in the Bible has been lost in translation since the text in ancient Greek.

This is one of many reasons why you won't find me in Bible Study: I feel the Bible is as flawed as Chris Forbes feels about Zeitgeist! Perhaps the Bible is even as flawed as I am as a human being, but that's going a bit too far. The Bible isn't that bad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Call it what you want, this is slick

In the States we call it Hacky Sack, while in older countries it's called Footbag. Call it what you want; when you see it in action, it's impressive.

I'll leave him anonymous so his fanmail won't distract from finals coming up, but this guy in our cohort may be wasting his time with the AGSM MBA. This is obviously a world competition level footbagger:

The best I can boast is maybe being seen as a carpetbagger, coming back to Duke after a semester in New York. That's not even a good thing. I'll get back to work now in a constant effort to improve myself.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

White House Publicity for DC Greenworks

I was charmed to find a video clip about DC Greenworks on the official White House website,

This is a strong example of the good work happening in DC. It's encouraging to see the wave of Energy Policy fueled by Obama's sea change.

Green Jobs for a Green Future from White House on Vimeo.

Kudos to my friend Ty Voyles who gave this to me and appears on the roof carrying some dirt.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

AGSM Hosts UNSW Photovoltaics Speaker

We recently had a visit at AGSM from David Jordan, Director of Business Development at UNSW's Faculty of Engineering. Primarily he works with the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. He has a background working with BP in their Solar Energy investments and currently drives the emergence of a new manufacturing operation to complement UNSW's traditional excellence in solar technology research and development. A small group of students joing David in the AGSM boardroom after Stacy Mellman, President of the Corporate Social Responsibility Club, organized the event.

David Jordan's talk on Photovoltaic technology was delivered at light speed! His brain functioned like a supercomputer as he clipped through every aspect of Solar panel research at UNSW and the exciting future ahead. He excited me with the plans for an industrial solar panel production facility to be built adjacent to the AGSM building in the currently lackluster car park. With these two institutions as neighbors on the UNSW campus, the possibilities for collaboration will be ripe in a global climate demanding renewable energy. David’s background with BP speaks to the potential for big business in renewables. Despite the hardships David Jordan shared, those in our generation are able to provide enthusiasm. Combining the seasoned experience of one generation and the optimism of the next, together we can see sustainable initiatives overtake investing as a primary MBA employment prospect.

I am not the only person inspired by David Jordan. With the wave of future plans and developments ahead, I will be one in many to realize a sea change in renewable energy innovation. David mentioned he is a big fan of Better Place, a global initiative for electric cars where Australia is one of many countries participating. Additional credibility for what David Jordan represents is given by the fact that the wealthiest man in China, Dr. Shi Zhengrong, with his company SunTech is a product of the UNSW School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. Everybody needs heroes, and my list is only getting longer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Acting, Directing, Effective Business Leadership

Based on my experience as actor, director, and aspiring effective business leader, I'd like to share a few thoughts after the Presentation Skills module over the last two days in Foundations of Management. It's safe to say: I love the AGSM partnership with NIDA and their Corporate Training element. Being trained by professional actors to use our bodies as effective public speakers makes perfect sense to me, as long as certain distinctions are made.

A difference lies between my world, where theater, film, and the MBA are a perfect match, and the real world out there were most of us come from and to which most of us will return. We've been taught the last two days as actors, essentially by directors. Moving forward we will apply that to a much more complex system of demands in business. I'll share with you my take on the similarities and differences between Acting, Directing, and Effective Business Leadership.

To establish credibility (or something like that), Louvst is a 90 minute film I wrote, directed, and eventually acted, as is often the case in independent film. (Need an extra body in front of the camera? No problem! The writing and directing is done and I'm just standing here, so heck, why not?) Louvst was an amazing experience that stretched me in various simultaneous directions, similar to others who have taken on a large project requiring them to learn new skills along the way.

Acting is being told by a director what to do. My definition of acting is a process of direct memorization of content, matched with a physical and emotional delivery convincing enough to solicit a mental and visceral response in the audience. It is an art form, bringing familiarity to the human experience, where the actor is given power by the director in order to gain the trust of the audience.

Directing is telling actors (and anyone else on a set) what to do. (Producing is making all the other crap happen to pull off a film, another responsibility I've shared with others, but that's another story.) This requires trust usually acquired by experience, and only for the length of time required to accomplish the film, play, or workshop. Directing experience is gained either purely by the audacity of having creative vision and making the time for it, or developing an opportunity to get paid doing it.

Effective Business Leadership, on the other side of the brain, requires the insanely long list of technical "hard" skills and social "soft" skills taught in an MBA program, practiced over a lifetime, and perfected hardly ever. I can't say much about that now, but one aspect is the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator or MBTI, and similar metrics used in "putting the right person in the right seat on the bus" as Brett Smith would say in his role as President of Counter Culture Coffee.

above: MBTI Personality Types for the AGSM MBA class of 2010

The trust given to an Effective Business Leader, lasting up to their entire lifetime, is earned as a result of mastering, to the best of one's abilities, the long list of various skills necessary. One of these skills is public speaking, for which we have been expertly directed by Natasha McNamara and Gerry Sont, professional actors who know their content. When applied along with the mastery of the course content, these skills may earn us the right to take a bow after our performance each quarter.

I'd love to talk more about this with anyone who can offer more insight from their perspective. I've been completely in my element for the Presentation Skills module, and offer whatever I can as a result. Be aware, on the other hand, that I will be the one needing much more explanation as we delve into the fat new binders on my bookshelf for Economics, Data Analysis, and Organisational Behavior. I leave you now with an entertaining moment from the whiteboard earlier, as we ponder the testicular breath mentioned in item 2 below:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Allora, No Telefono Cellulare

For those who ask for my number, I worked yesterday on getting a cell phone. I had discovered I need an Aussie Driver's license for a 24 month contract. With a 24 month contract I get a free phone like the Palm Treo Pro, which retails for around AUS$900. When I buy something omnipresent like a cellphone, I am willing to wait to get it right. Pre-paid plans are easy, but much more costly per minute. Longer contracts are about 10¢ cheaper per minute with other perks.

I went to the RTA in Bondi Junction where Driver's Licenses and License Tags are dispensed. I cheerfully brought the forms of ID I was told to provide, and willing to pay AUS$150 for a three year license. When I got there I discovered I can't get an Australian Driver's License until I've been in Australia for six months. I got here in December, so I won't be eligible for a 24 month phone contract for another four months.

Not to be discouraged I went into the mall at Westfield and found another Palm phone. (I need a Palm to maintain the electronic organization of my life I've had since High School.) Alana at the Telstra booth was very friendly. She just returned from a trip to the States where she watched Obama's Inauguration in the freezing snow! She pointed out I could buy a Palm Centro outright for AUS$200 and get a 12 month contract. This sounded like a perfect split down the middle.

I got the last Palm Centro in all of New South Wales, and we were working on the contract with Telstra. The phone was a return, and the funniest part of the story is that it had been activated by the previous owner in ITALIAN. Italian happens to be my strongest second language, but the fact is that after an hour of trying with help from people all over the mall to change the language back to English we couldn't. Once the language is set on a Palm Centro, it can't be changed!

I could have gone two ways: accept this as a means to polish my Italian everyday with my phone's language of choice, or decide I am not meant to have a cell phone for another four months until I can get the best equipment for free on a longer contract. I decided to wait, and with the money I saved I bought a AUS$65 ticket to the NIDA Parade Theater production of The Yalta Game in the last weekend of Sydney Festival.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Sentimental Journey

Friday was the final day of the Reflective Practice module of our Foundations of Management class at AGSM led by Denise Weinreis and Rosamund Christie. These women were amazing instructors. The emotional intelligence behind the curriculum, which was a part of what we learned in the class, raises the bar for the integrity of the entire MBA program.

In this last gathering, each individual in the group shared an object that held sentimental value to them and why they brought it with them all the way from home to Sydney. It was an amazing window into the emotional depth we all share, and incredibly touching. I found my eyes watering almost constantly as each person stood up and shared for less than one minute each.

As each student gave insight into their cultural values, families, adventures, and rugby jersies, I could see how the third culture that we create in our class of 2010 doesn't only affect us as future alumni. As we are affected by all those who give us strength, the culture of openness and respect that we create affect their lives in return.

In the constant challenge of effective leadership, we are only as effective as we are deep. If our emotional depth and understanding of the people that directly surround us reaches a more profound level, we should all become more motivated and passionate to achieve the best lives possible for us and those we love.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility

My friend Elad Sherf really keeps me on my toes! His recent blog post on Business and Sustainability is a response to the Corporate Social Responsiblity lecture we had at AGSM last week. I feel his response to the lecture is valid, but seeing something written that opposes my position so strongly, I feel I need to put my words out there. To the benefit of my argument, Barack Obama has been sharing the same information with the world and so I echo his sentiments.

I am coming from a background of working with Counter Culture Coffee, a global leader in ethical and fiscally sustainable business practices, so that is the foundation of my frame of reference. More recently I was at ASI-Modulex where good people were making a valiant effort at partnering with the US Green Building Council to position the company as a leader in LEED certified contracts and sustainability.

While Elad has had a background as a lawyer and working in the Israeli military, he has my profound respect along with my fundamental disagreements. Our presentation by Anthony and Louise Lupi presented some of the most valuable information our MBA program will face as we train to become the leaders of tomorrow. If we have learned nothing else as a global culture, our lesson has been that we cannot continue with business as usual.

If anyone remembers the opportunity that the USA had after September 11, 2001 to unite the world and conquer our common problems as a true team, keep that thought in mind while I continue. The enemy of "Terrorism" has always been completely bogus, while the "War" waged against it is the most Terror oriented activity in the big picture of the issues it raises.

The most realistic enemy we can face as a global population is our own greed, zionism, short-sightedness, and resistance to change. It's one thing for soldiers and employees to follow the orders of their superiors. It's another thing for the leaders of these minions to dig deep within themselves and make the right choices based on their profound and sustainable understanding of humanity.

That is what we are doing here at the AGSM MBA. We are doing the work demanded of us by those who may give in return, hopefully deservedly, the most sacred responsibility of leadership. Business, like any human activity, has no place on this planet unless it takes into consideration the advancement of the species and improvement of the quality of life we all share.

Human suffering is real, and anyone who feels they are impervious to our genetic connection and responsibility for each other is, in my humble opinion, moving exponentially in the wrong direction.

Sydney Aquarium

After we were burning up outside in the 40ºC heat, a group of us, led by the dynamic Patricio Noguerol, decided to go to the Sydney Aquarium to beat the heat. I was teasing Pato, as we call him, for having a psychic link with a fellow South American in our program, Phillip Whatmore from Chile. Immediately after the decision had been made, Pato had Phillip on the phone; he and his wife Catalina had already decided to go to the Aquarium and were on their way to meet us!

The Sydney Aquarium is an impressive array of tunnels and tanks, shuffling visitors through an aquatic zoo. I felt like a hamster waddling through a complex arrangement of tubes and observatories. Highlights were the shark tank and the entertaining comments made by Rishi Saghal, my brother in off the cuff humor. Unfortunately the Platypus decided to take the day off, which was upsetting. I'll have to find a small, rubbery, egg-laying mammal that is a cross between a duck and beaver somewhere else.

Chinese New Year, Sydney

Happy Year of the Ox! A group of AGSM students gathered Saturday morning in China Town to celebrate the beginning of Sydney Chinese New Year Festival. Led by the gregarious Mikiamo Yao (Michael if you will) we enjoyed a festive spread of Dim Sum, which is consumed during the eating period Yum Cha, literally "tea drinking" in Cantonese.

It was an amazing international event, a microcosm of the total AGSM MBA experience. My new mate Kelechi from Nigeria helped take a lot of pictures. It was such a hot day, we were all considering staying inside and eating slowly until the sun finally went down! Kelechi was perhaps the most appropriately dressed in his native garb.

After a brief walk through the gates of China Town we settled in a shady area of chairs overlooking a stage with Chinese Opera in full effect. There were quite a few people out, and I was very proud of my new home for representing its cultural diversity with such polish. The heat, however, soon began to disperse our group, which led some of us to the Sydney Aquarium and my next post.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Longterm Guanxi in China

Pictured: The Author with friends and associates in Shanghai, China.

I was forwarded this Harvard Business article by my friend at AGSM, Elad Sherf. As he implied I felt it spoke to my experience personally and I wrote the following response:

This article is perfectly in line with my experience learning about how to do business in China in the North Carolina Chinese Business Association, and the Chinese American Friendship Association.

Long term goal and Guanxi mean everything, not only to the success of business in China, but the establishment of a successful model for international business across the globe.

We must not view international business as occupying and taking advantage, for we are all, in fact, occupying the same space. We all share Planet Earth with the same resources and the same humanity.

To global leaders in business: Let us determine the path of a prosperous future with even-handed, long-term goals with mutual benefit and heartfelt cultural understanding.

The outcome will have an exponential positive impact.

Jonathan Blackwell

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gordon's on the rocks

One of the most beautiful days we've had immediately followed the torrential downpour that kept us from the Blue Mountains. With the sun blazing, we outfitted for the beach and headed down Alison Rd on the fifteen minute walk to the beach. We took the high road, and walked along some bluffs overlooking Gordon's Bay, north of Coogee Beach. The water was so beautiful and clear! We walked straight down the trail to get there.

Gordon's Bay is a nice little spot. We've been back there since. I actually prefer hopping along the rocks like a monkey to slithering across a sandy beach. It reminds me of the amazing time I had at a similar beach in Cinque Terre on Italy's west coast.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we left after I had an invigorating swim. We decided to walk to Coogee as was our original intention to see what we were missing out on. It blew our minds when we got there! The place was so crowded it was beautiful! The pictures hardly do it justice, seeing that many people all in one place, all so relaxed and enjoying themselves. I love Australia at its best.