Archive for June, 2009

Entertained, Appalled and Enthralled by ‘The Cove’

I just went to a screening of The Cove tonight and was absolutely blown away.

Following a group of activists who go to Japan to record the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, the story is part documentary, part thriller. The team schemes and plans, disguising cameras as rocks, trespassing in a dangerous areas and using military technology they had to sneak into the country all while having to evade the local police and hostile fishermen.

The Cove is at once disturbing and inspiring, exposing the horrific dolphin slaughter while showing how far passionate people will really go for their cause. And though I went into the film thinking it would be difficult to watch, it keeps you engaged with the Ocean’s Eleven-like plot and informed with the back story, and it doesn’t feel exploitative when the more gruesome scenes come up.

The facts revealed are also shocking. In Taiji, after they herd the dolphins to the cove and let various dolphin trainers have their pick — purchasing animals at about $150,000 apiece — they then slaughter the rest. Though these fishermen claim dolphin hunting is a tradition in Japan, most Japanese people don’t know this is going on and don’t want to eat dolphin, so the meat is often labeled as other types of whale. The most mind-boggling part of the whole story is that dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury, well beyond international safety standards, yet it’s still being sold.

The film hits both animal lovers and pragmatists, balancing the outrage at the 23,000 dolphins killed each year with facts about Mercury poisoning. Dolphin captivity is also on the agenda. Ric O’Barry, the former Flipper trainer turned dolphin activist and one of the ringleaders of this project, forces you to look critically at dolphin shows and attractions — and where those dolphins are coming from.

The Cove is a powerful film that will make you want to take action and I highly recommend it. It comes out on July 31 in New York and LA. Check here to see if it’s coming to a theater near you.

P.S. Stay until the end to see what happens with the blimp

The COVE OPS Team and some of their rather conspicuous looking spy equipment

The Cove OPS Team and some of their rather conspicuous looking spy equipment

Talking about Social Media Marketing and More at Gravity Summit

gravitysummitMonday I went to Gravity Summit at UC Irvine. I’d first heard about Gravity Summit when I went to the Tweetup after the UCLA conference. I got to meet one of the founders, Rodney Rumford, as well as some of the speakers, like Angie Swartz, as well as some other interesting people. So when I received an invitation to attend their UC Irvine event, I was excited to head down and learn more.

There was a great morning keynote by the author of The Brand Bubble, John Gerzema, who talked about the way consumers’ mindsets have shifted with the economic crisis and how brands are responding. His presentation had tons of great examples, and I’ve embedded it below (you can click on the slides with tiled images/logos to get to the examples). He discussed the shift toward do-it-yourself, consumer empowerment and a liquid, streamlined life. He also talked about the recent shift in focus to modesty (or at least the appearance of it), and value and ethics consciousness among consumers.

Calamity Master – Gravity Summit Version

Another great talk was Domino’s Pizza franchisee Ramon De Leon (@dpzramon) who talked about how he has used social media to boost sales in his 6 Chicago stores. His story goes way beyond posting specials on Twitter — this guy is a social media machine, connecting with local universities and clubs on Facebook, posting 12 seconds videos about the potholes around town and just generally using his infectious love for people, pizza and connecting to create more sales for his stores. He also likes to add a personal touch and goes to deliver pizzas himself, or brings his managers and cooks along, too. He’s always thinking about how he can leverage an opportunity to sell pizza, and he’s completely available to his Chicago community.

There were other presentations about how Twitter changes the game of business marketing, how to create a passionate community, analytics tools to help find, reach and influence your market, and more. In all, it was a great day, and I met a lot of wonderful people.

Mindshare LA: A Night of “Enlightened Debauchery”

mindshare la june flyerLast week, Kacie and I went to Mindshare LA. I’d been meaning to go to this event since I first read about it the fall, but had never actually made my way over to hear the talks and mingle with the rather intellectually elite crowd. But then I started getting more into LA’s tech evets, and I met Travis Savo, who is part of Mindshare Labs, at BarCamp. Once I had a personal invite — and knew one of the speakers (Jason) — of course I was going to go.

The event was held at a repurposed firehouse on the east side of Downtown LA. We entered from an alley, where a Border Grill taco truck was parked for our dining pleasure, and picked up our name tags before exploring the already crowded venue. There was a little courtyard, where Travis would DJ later, another outdoor space where there was an open wine and beer bar as well as snacks from Portos, and an inside space with a bar, some small side rooms, and a room set up for the presentations.

The speaker list was a diverse group of people all passionate about what they do.

Jessica Jackley, the founder of KIVA, gave a talk about microloans and about what KIVA is doing to help alleviate poverty around the world. I got to learn a bit more about the lending process and was really inspired by how she has been able to grow the organization so quickly and effectively.

Geoffrey Sommer, an aviator and risk analyst who has done work for NASA, talked about killer comets and meteorites and talked about how closely we can predict an impact and whether we could really do anything about it. I’ve always been a sucker for disaster shows, though they absolutely terrify me, and from what he has determined, we probably shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about things coming from outer space to kill us.

Ariel Blumenthal, a composer and the founder Sentient Music for Media talked about creating custom soundtracks for spaces that evolve as you move through the space and set differet moods in different parts of the spaces and Dr. Alex Benzer, the author of Tao of Dating for Women and Tao of Dating For Men talked about why smart people often have a difficult time dating.

The big talk of the night, though was Jason Porath‘s A Short History of Hollywood’s Genitalia Coverups. I first heard Jason give the talk at BarCamp, and it had the room roaring. We all laughed at terms like “tent removal” and “scrotoscoping,” and got to see quite a few examples of Hollywood coverups. I’m hoping the video of this one turns up sometime so I can share it.

After the talks, we stuck around for another drink and enjoyed the music. The courtyards were beautifully lit up with firelight, and we also got to check out a laser maze — I didn’t actually try it, but it looked like something a bank robber would have to go through.

I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s a video from SEOP:

SEOP at the Events: MindShare LA | 6/18/09 from SEOP on Vimeo.

Free Download: The Owl Calendar 2010

Click to view a larger image

Click to view a larger image

Our final project for Design Fundamentals, other than our design journal, was a calendar. We needed to show a change over time or some sort of metamorphosis while also displaying the 2010 calendar.

I started sketching some cute, boxy little owls, and created a little love story between the two of them. I didn’t know how I’d display the calendar part, but I started to think about making the calendar a part of the tree. After many different experiments on how to do this, what shape the tree should be, where the branches should be and how the story should fit around it, I came up with my final design and put it down in pen and colored pencils.

There are plenty of other small touches in the final design for you to look out for like a little hedgehog, a mouse and bumblebees. I had a lot of fun designing this and drawing it out.

If you’d like to download a high res version, just right-click the link below and select “Save Link As…” Please use it for your personal use only and don’t resell or reconfigure it. Do feel free to share with friends. And let me know if you’ve downloaded it and are enjoying it in the comments.

2010 Owl Calendar, High Res: owlcal-francinekizner.jpg (4.22MB)

2010 Owl Calendar Computer Background, 1280 x 800: owlcal-background.jpg (788KB)

Computer Background version -- Click to enlarge

Computer Background version -- Click to enlarge

Frank Lloyd Wright Houses of Western Pennsylvania


One of the best days of my trip to Pittsburgh was spending a Saturday out in the countryside visiting Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, two Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

We got to Fallingwater first and were set to take a guided tour with a small group of about 10. We all gathered at the visistor’s center, and when they called our group, we walked down the long gravel driveway to the house. On approach, you don’t really see the waterfall, but you do get to a small bridge that leads to the entrance of the house where you can look down on the stream that runs at the top of the platform, and you can see a floating platform with steps leading down from the house where the owners could sit and dangle their feet into the running water.

fallingwater floating platform

It was a beautiful late spring day and everything was very green. And though I had seen many photos of the house over the years, visiting it really felt like something new and different. One thing I was surprised about what how small most of the interior rooms were. The bedrooms and bathrooms were quite small, as were the hallways, but we learned that Wright designed that way — to compress you through the hallways to the rooms, and to bring the outside in by making each room’s patio similar in size to the room.


There were fireplaces throughout the house and beautiful views from all the windows and balconies. It was also nice to see so much original furniture, as a lot of it is custom and built in to the house. The tour guide also loved to point out which designs weren’t Wright’s — some were the owner’s own designs that Wright disapproved of. We also got to see the guest house and walk around to the far side of the stream to get the classic view of the house, where we took most of our photos.

When we were done with our tour and walk around the grounds, we started to head over to see another one of Wright’s homes, Kentuck Knob. We had some time for our drive, though, so on the way we stopped in Ohiopyle to have a picnic lunch by the river, and we also checked out Cucumber Falls, where a large, drunken bridal party was clambering down the muddy path and over slippery roots and rocks to take a photo in their formalwear. It was quite a scene.

Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob

Kentuck Knob was very different from Fallingwater. First, it’s a good deal smaller. It’s also tucked into the knob of  hill, so it has quite a modest exterior profile. Inside, it has large windows that look out on the trees, and it doesn’t have quite as much of the original furnishings as Fallingwater does, but it’s still privately owned and shows off the owner’s extensive sculpture collection both inside and outside the house. Again the hallways were very narrow and the rooms were even smaller, but it felt nice and cozy and if we weren’t the last tour of the day we would have had more time to go to the sculpture meadow and check out more of the modern art collection.

On our way back to Pittsburgh we stopped for dinner at Chez Girard, a quirky but lovely and nice French restaurant. We weren’t dressed as nicely as we should have been, but we sat out on the patio, enjoying the nice weather, listening to French music and eating a delicious meal.

Check out more photos on Flickr and Facbeook

A Beautiful Walk Through Phipps Botanical Garden and Oakland

The elegant Phipps Conservatory Glass House

The elegant Phipps Conservatory Glass House

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day, so I decided to go check out Phipps botanical garden and conservatory, Schenley Park and some of Oakland’s other sights.

Frabel Longfellows at the Phipps Conservatory

Frabel Longfellows at the Phipps Conservatory

The botanical gardens, almost entirely housed inside a giant glass house, were lovely. To add to the already impressive array of trees and flowers, there were also Frabel glass pieces dispersed throughout the gardens — lizards and frogs in the amazon room, floating, lacy bowls on top of a fish pond, fairies in the butterfly room and my favorites, the “Longfellows,” near and in many of the water elements.

A Brachiosaurus at the Carnegie Museums

A Brachiosaurus at the Carnegie Museums

After spening time in the gardens, I did a quick walkthrough of the Carnegie Library and also poked my head into the Carnegie art museum. It was near closing time so I didn’t buy a ticket, but I did go to the Pitt campus to check out the Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning (both closed for weddings) and took a look at the military museum from a distance, too (also closed for a wedding).

Heinz Chapel

Heinz Chapel

Oakland was such a pleasant place to wander and relax that Evan and I returned the next day to explore a bit more of Schenley Park and have a late breakfast at Pamela’s, a rather famous Pittsburgh diner chain. The pancakes were delicious.

Check out this slideshow of photos from the conservatory:

Check out more Pittsburgh photos on Flickr and Facebook

A Day of Immersive Art on Pittsburgh’s North Side

Paths to the Park, Pittsburgh

I finally got to head back to Pittsburgh for a second visit and I arived in the city on the brink of summer. Everything in lush and green, the sun is out and my allergies are making my nose run and eyes itch.

Like my last trip, I’ve had a good amount of time to wander about on my own, so I decided to check out some of the sights I missed on my last brief trip. Friday, I took a nice walk to the North Side and headed to the Mattress Factory, a museum down an alley that specializes in large-scale installations from contemporary artists.

There was an inyeresting wood sculpture exhibit by Thaddeus Mosley that made me feel like I was walking through a semiurban forest of undulating yet stoic tress.

There was another exhibit almost entirely in the dark by James Turrell that played on perceptions of light, shape and space with a floating red projected cube that you realize is just a corner in a room, and a flat purple rectangle that you come to realize is an entire room lit up and shown through a frame. It was creepy walking around in the dark by myself, especially listening to the creaky footsteps from the floor above and other building noises, but it was also interesting and immersive.

Infinity Dots Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama

Infinity Dots Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama

Another near exhibit was two mirrored polka-dotted rooms designed by Yayoi Kusama that I walked through with my shoes off.

Mattress Factory Slideshow

While at the museum I saw information on a new interacive art project, Paths to the Park, which paired North Side students with people at locals arts and community organizations and had them walk to the park in West Commons wearing chalk shoes to show their trail. The walk was going on that evening, so I went to check out the event and watched people coming into the parks leaving neon green trails, talked to some people involved with the project and even tried on the chalk shoes. They were harder to walk in than I thought they would be. (Paths to the Park Flickr Gallery)

Chalk Shoes for Paths to the Park

Chalk Shoes for Paths to the Park

Since I had some time before Paths to the Park started, I also stopped by the National Aviary where I saw a bunch of birds, including 2 of the biggest in the world — Andean Condors — as well as cute little penguins, rambunctious flamingos and some pretty parrots. I got there too late to catch any of the day’s shows, though, so there wasn’t quite as much to do as I’d hoped. (National Aviary Flickr Gallery)

A bird at the National Aviary

A bird at the National Aviary

When I finally headed home, I got to walk by PNC Field where the Pirates were playing. I fought foot traffic on the bridge from downtown as the only one walking away from the game. Next week, when I’m back in town, we’re going to see about getting tickets to a game.

6th Street Bridge by PNC Field

6th Street Bridge by PNC Field

Check out more Pittsburgh photos on Flickr and Facebook