Think Before You Fool

Trying out Anil Dash’s blog text embedding feature in honor of his timely reminder that “Your April Fool’s Day Joke Continues To Suck”:

Aside: Anil rigged up his blog recently so that you can easily embed his text-based blog entries on your site or blog, just like you embed videos or include photos. He places a javascript code snippet at the end of every entry that you can grab and embed. That’s what you see above. What do you think of how it works?

Update: Leah points out that Anil’s embed code doesn’t come through if you’re reading this entry via RSS. If that’s the case for you, click on through to my site, or here’s the direct link if you want to skip that and go straight to the article I’m including.

A Perspective On The Demonstrations In Tibet, From 1997

With the recent demonstrations in Lhasa and increased tension between the Tibetans and the Chinese, my parents suggested I think about digging up a video documentary I put together in 1997 about violence and non-violence in the history of the Tibetan struggle.

My goal in the project was to demystify what I saw at the time as a common representation in the Western press of the Tibetan people as all inherently peaceful, emotionless people who are too spiritual and compassionate to have strong negative feelings about their struggle with the Chinese. In the summer between my junior and senior years at Columbia, I spent a month shooting video in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan-government-in-exile and the home to many exiled Tibetans. I interviewed Tibetans who had fled their homeland, officers in the Tibetan-Government-In-Exile, and was honored to have a 20 minute private audience with His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

I sought to discover and represent the diversity of opinions to be found in the Tibetan community in exile, to hear how individual Tibetans explain their views in their own words, and to better understand how the dual role of His Holiness The Dalai Lama as both political and spiritual leader plays into the the decisions individual Tibetans make. This NY Times article from this week addresses some of those same issues in light of the recent demonstrations.

Thanks to the help of Curtis at Thrill Media, my video is now online:


Shangri-La Revisited: Tibetan Perspectives On Non-Violence from Dave Coustan on Vimeo.

Retrieving the tape from storage this week reminded of the great many people I am indebted to for helping me out along the way. The project was self-funded. My family pitched in by hosting a big yard sale. I used my savings and they again pitched in to make sure I had what I needed to get the project done. At the time, that meant a Canon XL-1 Hi-8 camera — state of the art prosumer then, laughably primitive now. Mike Weiss led me through my first experience with the entire post-production process, and served as editor, post-production supervisor, creative collaborator, and mentor, all on a volunteer basis. I met many extremely helpful folks along the way, including my translator Karma Wanchuck, Phuntsog and Riga Wangyal at the Tibet Foundation in London, Jonathan Lee who composed the score, Lobsang Sangay at Harvard, the Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the Religion Department at Columbia, Champa and Kalsang Namgyal, my Tibetan teacher Lozang Jamspal, and Dr. Tamdin who helped me navigate from Delhi to Dharamsala.

Props To The Gramma Sarah Pound Cake Recipe

My friend Jenny at Gearlive wrote up my late grandmother Sarah Distenfield’s legendary pound cake recipe for their Food Squeeze section. This is the same recipe my gramma used to make the cake I brought as a gift to His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1996 when I had a private audience and interview with him in Dharamsala, India. She was 94 when she passed away and we miss her dearly. I’m so proud that Jenny wrote it up and can recommend it from personal experience. It’s dirt simple, but works really well.

Here’s what a snippet of it looks like in her original hand, photocopied for a binder we made of all of her best recipes:
Gramma's Pound Cake Recipe

Good Things At Super Deluxe

A few recent things at Super Deluxe I really like:

  • Bathing With Bierko: John Malkovich – This hits a comedy sweet spot for me. When done well, I like awkward-funny a whole lot. But it’s also a real interview that does, in fact, shed light on John Malkovich in its own way. Thankfully, Bierko in no way acknowledges the odd format or gives any sort of wink towards the audience(no “look at me! I’m in a bathtub, naked, with John Malkovich! Isn’t this crazy?”), he just does his business thoroughly cleaning John Malkovich’s bumpy dome, asking him probing questions, and performing some basic role-playing exercises.

  • The New Background Image On The Home Page – *Maybe* it’s a mama bird feeding life-giving smokes to wormy birdlets? I’m not sure but I like what it does for the layout and feel of the front door. Great work, Jeremy.
    Original Series, Featured Artists & Funny Videos on Super Deluxe
  • Jonah Ray’s Quit Playing Video Games – Any short that visually compares blowing on Nintendo cartridges to make them work to blowing in a lady’s ear gets a heh from me.
    You are watching Quit Playing Video Games And Get Laid Another Funny Video from Jonah Ray on Super Deluxe
  • The Blog’s SXSW Music Festival Coverage – Lots of great bite-sized chunks that give you a sense of what it’s like to feast on music, comedy, food, and booze while lost in a sea of transplanted hipsters. While the arms-length ironic judgement force field that tends to surround comedy industry workers can at times be grating, it works really well at a coolfest like SXSW. Great work, Ben and Matt…oh sorry, “El_Douche_A” and “Senatorturer.”

(Note: Super Deluxe is one of my clients.)

Post-Tornado Notes

It’s been a weird weekend. On Friday night, the tornado that ripped through downtown Atlanta and then Cabbagetown came through East Atlanta. I was lucky that there was no damage to my house, and the power was only out until early Sunday morning, but lots of my neighbors weren’t so lucky. I decided to write down some of my recollections, and this entry got rather long, so I put it all in the extended entry. Click the “more” link to read all of it.

Glenwood ave.
Glenwood Ave. in East Atlanta, Saturday morning 3/15/2008

Continue reading “Post-Tornado Notes”

Friday Heh List

(…which will be published on a rolling, additive basis today…)

SXSW Recap: Bespoke Business Cards

Today I’m going through all my notes and memories and business cards and free stuff from this past weekend’s SXSW interactive. This was my third time attending. It felt much bigger than last year, and that both helped and hindered my travels through it. On the upside, there were lots of fresh faces and more choices for panels. On the downside, parties were crowded and hallways were full, which meant some of us waited in line for a full hour to get in to one party only to get frustrated and leave after all that time. It would be tough for SXSW to scale much bigger and still maintain the great sense of intimacy and equal access I’ve enjoyed there for the most part.

Most of my consulting work comes through online discovery and word of mouth between friends, so I haven’t rushed out to make Extraface business cards. As SXSW drew closer, I realized I probably needed something and spent days and days trying to come up with something cheap, handmade, unique, and beautiful I could do. I’ve never been happy with cards I’ve made off of my home printer. I considered things like tiny plastic animals from Target with tags tied to them(too clunky at a social gathering), postcards(potentially too bulky), and Tiny Envelopes from my old, dormant tinyenvelope.com site(too much overhead to explain). The night before I was to leave I decided to take a bunch of Chartpak rub-on letters and some cardstock I had lying around, and just see what would happen if I made a couple of very analog handmade cards. I was very pleased with the result:
Impromptu Business Card
That’s it. Nothing on the back. Just my standard online username and URL, which easily leads you to my web site, blog, phone number, email address, and flickr account if you plug it in to any old popular search engine. If I make business cards with fuller information, I end up with the word “extraface” over and over again on the same card.

Still, there was no way I could make large quantities of these, as you traditiionally would for a big event. I also only had five X’es in the set with that typeface, so at most I’d be able to make five Extraface cards. I made a couple more before the trip, grabbed the rub-on letters and the cardstock and packed it all in my bag.

One of the first friends I ran in to at the conference was Chris Schultz from Voodoo Ventures and Flatsourcing. He mentioned that my cards tied in to the subject of Brian Oberkirch’s talk at FOWA Miami, about how the currency of identity is changing from e-mail to URL to username. As we sat down and waited for a panel, I splayed out all of my cardmaking materials on the floor and made a few more cards. I tweeted that anyone who needed an extra business card or two was welcome to come join me, and my friend Jonathan from lk9 made a spare card for his business.

Throughout the show, I had a total of maybe 9 business cards to hand out. Each time the card exchange part of the conversation came up, I would explain that I only had a few cards and had made them all by hand, and then I would pull out my favorite. I gave people the choice of either taking one if they really liked it, or taking a cameraphone picture of it since that would get them all of the necessary information. People really seemed to like that idea.

Among the recipients: I gave one to Daniel Burka from Pownce. One went to artist Dan Shefelman, who I met at the Frrvrr party. Matthew Levine from Technorati got one, after I spotted his beautiful notes at the Jared Spool talk. As did Andy Carvin from NPR. Brian Kalma, Director of Creative Services at Zappos, who I had met last, year took a cameraphone pic of one. I also gave one to the guys at howyadoing.org, a neat new “global mood ring” site. I’d love to know where they all went and who all saw them, so if I’m leaving anyone out please let me know and I’ll add you here.

I felt good about giving out and showing off something that I made with my own hands, imperfections and all. It also probably helped to scratch the crafting itch for me at a time when I’m mostly focused on technology and things that happen outside of the space of physical objects. I’m running out of Chartpak letters but I can see doing this same thing again next time I need cards.

(Update: if you like these you can put in a vote for them over at SXSWCards.com)

Introducing Hashpip.es

At SXSW I had quite a few hallway conversations about what I consider the Twitter hashtag problem. As a constructive contribution to the ongoing discussion, in between sessions I threw together a way to strip out hashtags from Twitter a account and create a new, hashtag-free account using Yahoo Pipes and Twitterfeed. You can see it and read about it at:

http://hashpip.es

It requires a few manual steps since I have to create a new Twitter.com account for the person, and then set up Twitterfeed to feed RSS to it. I’m taking requests if there’s anyone you follow who you wish you could see without the # signs, or if you yourself use them and would like to offer your friends a hash-free version of your account. Just drop me a comment or email. Assistance on the project is also welcome in terms of design, development, or anything else you’d like to jump in on.

As soon as I finish it up I’ll be adding an interactive form that lets you play around with the hashtags in Twitter streams and get instant feedback.

Special thanks to Jonas and Jonathan at lk9 for the moral support and name suggestions, and to Chris Messina for agreeing to be one of my first guinea pigs and helping spread the word.