Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘hollywood’ Category

Live From IBM Pulse 2013: Chris Gardner And His Pursuit of Happyness

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Author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Chris Gardner speaks to the Tivoli Business Partner Summit audience in Las Vegas about his trials and tribulations as a single father who, despite finding he and his infant son homeless on the streets of San Francisco, overcame his great adversity and inspired millions around the world, and in the process raised the world's consciousness about the perils of homelessness and the importance of parenting.

Author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Chris Gardner speaks to the gathered Tivoli Business Partner Summit audience in Las Vegas about his trials and tribulations as a single father who, despite finding he and his infant son homeless on the streets of San Francisco, overcame his great adversity and inspired millions around the world, and in the process raised the world’s consciousness about the perils of homelessness and the importance of parenting.

You may not know Chris Gardner by name or by face. But if he told you that one of the world’s most bankable movie stars, one who travels with a four bodyguard security entourage, made a movie about his story, he might just get your attention, as he got mine when he kicked off this afternoon’s session at the Tivoli Business Partner Summit here at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

And that’s when Mr. Gardner explained that Will Smith was not going to be joining us, and also the first moment Chris Gardner had the audience in the palm of his hands, which he never let go for the ensuing 45 minutes.

If you don’t know the story behind the story behind “The Pursuit of Happyness,” then you’re missing out. But the irony wasn’t lost on Mr. Gardner, who joked that the people in “Hollyweird” spent $70 million to recreate a story he endured “for nothing.”

But as it turns out, it wasn’t for nothing, as it’s a story that has inspired people around the world, in the form of both a movie and a book, one which has been translated into six dialects of the Chinese language.

And it all started with an interview that Mr. Gardner almost didn’t  do with Barbara Walters for “20/20.”

But he did do the interview, which ran on a Friday, and on Monday the floodgates opened with calls wanting to exploit his story. Juxtapose that with another Friday he found himself in a Bay Area jail, a much longer weekend where he had to wait to get released so he could go and find his infant son.

Because ultimately, Gardner explained, that was his life’s work, a promise to himself: To break the cycle of failed fatherhood among black males, a promise he made when he was only five himself and didn’t have his own father around.

Soon, there was one call from the entertainment realm that interested him, one from Steve Tisch, a co-producer on “Forrest Gump” and part of a firm called “Escape Artists,” who convinced Gardner he wanted to help him share his story with the world through the form of a major motion picture.

Though Gardner was at first hesitant to okay Will Smith as the star — “This story is about inner space, not outer space” Gardner explained —  his daughter ultimately convinced him when she said “Papa, don’t worry.  If he can play Muhammad Ali he can play you.”

The key question everyone wanted to know, Gardner then continued, was “how do you become homeless?”

And his answer was, “life happens.”

He had worked his way into a great job at a local university, was soon married and an expectant father, and he was all about seizing opportunity.  After enduring for a period a cushy if modest lab equipment sales job, he one day saw a guy driving a Ferrari, which he offered to help find a parking spot for.  But he first wanted an answer to two questions:

“What do you do, and how do you do that?”

The answer was the guy was a stockbroker, cleared about $80,000 a month, and because Gardner was “pretty good with numbers,” decided that’s what he wanted to do with his life.

But as he again explained, “life happens,” and before he knew it he was destitute due to some accumulated parking tickets and some domestic woes at home.  Before he knew it, he was without a job, health care, and soon, even his wife and son.

It was a single policeman who, during his ten day jail stay, cut him some slack and allowed him to make a phone call so he could postpone the all-important stock trader assistant job position he was applying for.

Shortly thereafter, he was successful in getting the job, but he lost his wife and now had an infant son to take care of.  The boarding house he was staying in didn’t allow children, so he quickly found himself and his son on the streets of Oakland with no place to go.

It was at this point that Gardner explained that an estimated 23% of homeless people “have jobs and go to work everyday,” and that this problem has only grown through the economic downturn.

But through a series of ingenious, if challenging, moves, he found a way to take care of his son and endure the hard-nosed requirements of the new job, staying at times on the streets, at others in dime hotels, and yes, acceding to the kindness of strangers.

Including a reverend at a local homeless food distributor, Mo’s Kitchen, the proprietor of which saw Gardner standing in line with his infant son, an anomaly considering most of the kitchen’s visitors were homeless women with children.

“What are you doing with that baby?” the reverend asked one day.  “I’m gonna keep it,” Gardner explained.

And so every day for a year, that’s precisely what Gardner did.  “You would see me, my son, a stroller, one suit on my back and another in a hanging bag, and we hit the street, every day for a year.”

They slept outside, at airports (this was pre 9/11), a Union Station bathroom…wherever they could.  And Gardner observed the one thing his son remembers from this period was this: “Every time I looked up, my father was there.”

Gardner remembers, “He didn’t know we were homeless.”

And despite all else, Gardner stayed homeless, until such time that he could save enough money to find his own place, a small apartment not two blocks from the train station they once frequented for shelter.

Gardner went to explain that his son didn’t know that some of the times he ate, Gardner went hungry, or that sometimes he was able to get a hotel room only after first giving blood.  He didn’t know that, Gardner explained, “because that’s what fathers do.”

After spending their first night in their new home, Gardner’s son saw him leaving the apartment without carrying everything he owned, which he’d been forced to do for the better part of that year.

Gardner explained to him, “You know what son, we got a key now…we’re home.  We don’t have to carry stuff anymore.”

“That was the start of turning our lives around,” Gardner related, although it hadn’t come easy.  “After a year of struggle, I didn’t know how much more I could take when one day, my son, stood up in the bathtub, and said, ‘Papa, you know what?  You a good papa.’”

We know the rest of the story from the movie, and from Gardner’s retelling.  He went on to enjoy great success as a stock broker, ultimately arriving at Bear Sterns’ San Francisco office and making millions.

“Sometimes it’s okay to laugh all the way to the bank,” Gardner joked.

But through it all, Gardner never lost his perspective.

Much later, the great American poet Maya Angelou explained to Gardner that “This story ain’t even about you. This is about every mother who ever also had to be a father, and every father who ever also had to be a mother.”

This was about breaking the cycle of men who have not been there for their children.

And though you might not recognize Chris Gardner walking down the street if you ran right into him, he was there for his son.

And in the end, that’s all he really wanted any of us to know.

Written by turbotodd

March 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Patents And Oscars

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This is a big day for announcements.

First, IBM announced a record 6,478 patents in 2012, patents for inventions that will enable fundamental advancements across key domains that includes analytics, big data, cybersecurity, cloud, mobile, social networking, as well as industry solutions like retail, banking, healthcare, and transportations.

These patented inventions also will advance a major shift in computing, known as the era of cognitive systems.

This is the 20th consecutive year that IBM topped the annual list of U.S. patent recipients.

Ginny Rometty, IBM’s chairman and CEO, had this to say about the milestone:

“We are proud of this new benchmark in technological and scientific creativity, which grows out of IBM’s century-long commitment to research and development. Most concretely, our 2012 patent record and the two decades of leadership it extends are a testament to thousands of brilliant IBM inventors — the living embodiments of our devotion to innovation that matters, for our clients, for our company and for the world.”

IBM’s record-setting 2012 patent tally was made possible by more than 8,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 35 countries. IBM inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to nearly 30% of the company’s 2012 U.S. patent output.

There was also an early morning announcement from Los Angeles, this year’s Academy Award nominees.

There was another long slate of Best Film nominees, including Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

I’ve seen five of the nine, which puts me well ahead of where I am most years in terms of what films I have and haven’t seen.

Best Actor nominations were led by Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln and Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook.  If you’ve seen Lincoln, it’s hard to see how the Best Actor Oscar doesn’t go do DDL.

On the Best Actress front, the nominations were led by Juillard-trained Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.  But don’t rule out Emmanualle Riva for Amour, or the chamelon-like Naomi Watts in The Impossible. In a crazy year, Quvenzhane Wallis could even walk away with the Oscar for her crazy good performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the most unique, imaginative films I’ve seen in years.

Quentin Tarantino got a nomination for Django Unchained in the Best Original Screenplay category, but I think that one is there for the taking by Mark Boal, screenwriter for Zero Dark Thirty.

Congrats to all this year’s nominees.  As a big movie fan myself, looking at that slate of Best Pic nominees, you realize what a strong movie year it’s been.

Finally, on the topic of movies, if you’re a big movie fan, check out Stephen Rodrick’s piece in The New York Times magazine about the trials and tribulations renowned screenwriter-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Affliction, et al.) had financing and making his new film, The Canyons, which stars that ever-intemperate actress Lindsay Lohan.

Meanwhile, below I’ve included a nice video clip summarizing IBM’s 20 successive years of patent leadership, and you can learn more about IBM’s patent efforts on our Tumblr site.

Written by turbotodd

January 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Faster Media

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I indicated in a post recently that I had gotten rid of my HBO bundle through AT&T U-Verse’s system, with all due apologies to Bill Maher and the new show about news, “The Newsroom.”

But my underlying futility was really about the inability to buy or rent specific content “a la carte” (i.e., be able to buy specific channels of content without having to provide the financial overhead underwriting others) than it was about the quality of the content itself.

New models are of digital content development and management are emerging that can help challenge these legacy financial constructs. Today, at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), IBM announced it has helped Canal+ Group deliver and archive digital comment.

Canal+ Group is the leading pay-TV broadcaster in France, and now will be able to more easily launch and manage new channels and services such as on-demand, web-TV, and even mobile-TV.

Prior to its process and archiving overhaul, Canal+ often used separate and isolated systems to manage its services, often making the production process cumbersome, manually intensive and costly.

Today, the staff has access to an interactive portal that collates and manages over 170 hours of content per day or 8,000 programs per year, whether from tape, external files or post-production video.

The intuitive portal allows multimedia content to flow back and forth in real-time across business units such as programming, advertising, editorial, archiving, production, and distribution.

“This project has helped Canal+ undergo a major transformation, not just in terms of how we operate internally, but how we service our customers,” said Jo Guegan, executive vice president, Technology and Information Systems, Canal+ Group. “

“This new intelligent system ensures we have the tools to produce and process programs in a time frame that keeps us ahead of our competitors in France and globally. As a result, Canal+ has become one of the first organizations in the world to dynamically monitor its workflow processes.”

Written by turbotodd

September 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Breaking Bad Habits

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I recently gave up my HBO habit.

I was tired of paying the premium through my AT&T U-Verse subscription, and I’d been putting off for far too long giving some money to The New York Times digital edition, content from which I consume daily.

So far, it’s been a mostly fair trade.

Though I’m going to miss shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Newsroom” and “True Blood,” as well as Bill Maher (especially during the political season), I figured being able to get all of the Times’ content on any of my digital devices (and I have many!) at any time was easy math: The digital paywall became more forbidding than the bundle became enticing.

No sooner do I make this move, than I read in Variety this morning that HBO is going to give the Nordic countries the opportunity to cut the chord by allowing folks to subscribe to HBO without having to have an HBO pay-TV subscription.

The Variety story dug deeper into the Nordic permafrost, indicating this was a competitive matching move, an announcement short on the heels of Netflix announcing its move into Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

I laugh at this — I don’t live in a Nordic country, what good does this do me??!!

I did visit Stockholm once — could that qualify me for a subscription???

It’s no wonder more and more people are cutting the cord on cable TV.

Cable has a business model for offering content that is completely antiquated, and entirely out of line with the direction of more a la carte offerings in a digital world.

I only cut a small piece of the cord…this time around…but unless I’m giving more choices and flexibility in content soon, as opposed to their traditional bundling…well, HBO isn’t the only habit I can break.

Written by turbotodd

August 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm

All About The Content Razorblades

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The Interwebs platform wars continue to escalate.

Not days after I read Ken Auletta’s fine New Yorker piece on the U.S. antitrust suit against Apple and several book publishers for alleged price fixing — a scheme that clearly had Amazon and its Kindle Fire in its gunsights — do we discover that Amazon is working with Foxconn on its own mobile mousetrap, one that, like the Fire, would presumably provide easy access to all kinds of compelling content from Amazon’s vast cloud of digital entertainment.

Books, movies, gaming apps…Amazon’s play suggests that the Internet industry is moving into the razor/razorblade club, with the devices being the razors, and the razorblades being all that vast digital content.

I, personally, mostly don’t care which razor I use. I’ve owned tablets and smartphones both Android and iOS now, and most recently have given a Kindle (not the Fire) a test drive.

The most important element for me in the digital content wars are the depth and sophistication of the content libraries themselves.

That is to say, help me move beyond Amazon and Apples’  57 Channels On Demand and Nothing On!

Amazon’s bookstore, of course, has virtually the world’s book population at your disposal, so no complaints when it comes to reading (although I do agree we need healthy, competitive alternatives to the Amazon reading ecosystem).

But when I go into my Amazon Prime movie library, which lets me watch some movies for free with my Prime subscription, it’s like dragging the bottom of the movie barrel.

To some degree, I see the same problem with Netflix, although Netflix has seemed to have worked more diligently to expand its library.  Amazon Prime, on the other hand,  just added a bunch of new episodes of William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line.”

Woo hoo, where do I renew my subscription??!

The cloud providers may be lining to try and lock in as many denizens as they can via their device and subscription services, but the form factor is less important than the catalog function.

What’s kept me from cutting my own cord on the TV is the fact that the Netflix’s and Amazons of the world don’t have enough diversity of content (never mind live event access to major sporting events, which for my money are msotly worth the high cost of monthly cable subscriptions alone).

So if the Apples and Googles and Amazons really want to move these markets, they need to quickly hire some sophisticated business development executives and hard-driving attorneys who can  make some negotiation headway in the hills of Hollywood’s film libraries  rather than try to draw lines around the device footprints.

It’s never about the razors, always about the razorblades.

Written by turbotodd

July 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Nora Ephron: I’ll Have What She’s Having

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We lost a great writer with the passing of Nora Ephron.

Judging from all the accounts of those who knew her, we also lost a great human being.

I did not know her, but I knew her work.  Anyone who followed American cinema over the past three decades, how could they not?

Starting with the anti-love love story (about love, and Ephron’s love for New York City), “When Harry Met Sally,” when both Harry and Sally decided they couldn’t just be friends after all…“You’ve Got Mail,” the first movie that presciently understood love in the late 20th cyber century…“Julie and Julia,” which brilliantly bridged time and space, juxtaposing a young female blogger in Queens in the early oughts struggling to follow her life’s passion with Julia Childs bushwhacking her way through male-dominated culinarydom in Paris in the 1950s.

What I liked most about Ephron’s writing was her humor.  But I also liked that she challenged accepted and conventional wisdom about women and humanity in general…and threw most of that conventional wisdom right out the window.

She understood their were universalities that underscored us all — men, women, children, — and made us all seem more like one, despite all our supposed differences.  She could also brilliantly underscore those universals with her fantastic humor, humor that highlighted our common humanity and sometimes made seem so frail, but stubbornly persistent, our human condition.

But she wasn’t always about funny.  1983’s “Silkwood,” much of which was shot at the then new Las Colinas film studios near Dallas, demonstrated Ephron’s knack for serious storytelling, revealing the story of Karen Silkwood, an Oklahoma nuclear plant employee whistleblower (played brilliantly by Meryl Streep) who disappeared under suspicious circumstances before she could arrive for a New York Times interview.  It was a serious movie about some very serious and relevant issues, and paved the way for later whistleblowing films like “The Insider.”

Or “Heartburn,” which laid bare the thorny thistles underlying marriage, again with Meryl Streep playing her alter ego to Ephron’s former husband Carl Bernstein (played devilishly by Jack Nicholson), with Ephron falling in love with the insider Washington columnist despite her (valid) fears about marriage, only to find him living a double life with another woman (John Edwards, anyone?).

No, I didn’t know Nora Ephron.  But for the last thirty years, I did know her work, much of which still makes me chuckle years later.  That’s a rare talent, especially these days.

I don’t know what it exactly what it was that Ephron had…but I’d like to have just a little bit of it nonetheless.

Written by turbotodd

June 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

A Billion Angry Birds Served…And Counting

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Remember that scene from the movie “The Social Network,” the one where Sean Parker is advising Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin over cocktails?

It goes something like this:

Sean Parker: You don’t even know what the thing is yet. How big it can get, how far it can go. This is no time to take your chips down. A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?

Eduardo Saverin: You??

Eduardo Saverin: (As the scene shifts back to the deposition room): A billion dollars!

With the looming Facebook IPO, it seems that Parker was off only by a factor of 100, but a minor detail.

Well, it appears Facebook is not the only one reaching the upper echelons of the Internet stratosphere.

Overnight, TechCrunch reported that in Rovio’s newsletter this week, the company announced its own revenues had increased by more than tenfold in 2011, and that its “Angry Birds” gaming phenom had passed the one billion download mark.

I can see the big Angry Birds McDonald sign in the sky now, over 1 billion Angry Birds served!

What’s probably less well known is that Rovio has turned into a merchandising juggernaut, selling Angry Birds-stamped merchandise ranging from T-shirts to pencil eraser sets (of which I am now the proud owner of 2 — assembly required!).

Some 30 percent of all Rovio revenues came in last year via its massive merchandising efforts.

Could an Angry Birds movie be next? Well, perhaps not an entire movie, but certainly a spoof that pretends to be directed by Hollywood action auteur Michael Bay:

Such drama!

Of course, with all those “Angry Birds” game editions replicating like rabbits, you’re soon going to require a super-duper-bird-throwing-handheld-supercomputer to be able to keep up with all those pigs running around.

Good thing Apple’s allegedly now set to deliver a new version of the iPhone in September (this according to Apple Insider, although no details of the new iPhone have yet been released.)

One can only hope for some hopped up “Angry Birds”-optimized iPhone DRAM!

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