Saturday, September 29, 2007

Not my Scene

Not sure how I feel about the Courier-Journal's new "Scene" section. According to today's newspaper:

Saturday's Scene always has been the place for reviews of restaurants and music. Now we've also got the best fashions, housewares and bargains.
Now sure, all big city newspapers have their Lifestyles sections, and the goods featured in the Style section of the NY Times makes the Courier-Journal's Scene look like "Miss Fannie Brown's Bargain and Swap Weekly." But still, the "deal of the day," for fashion/beauty director Christine Fellingham is a $320 tunic marked down to $75. Bargain?

The "hottest tailgaiting accessories" feature a $92 football jersey that looks like something you'd buy in Wal-Mart's maternity-wear section, layered over a $68 long-sleeved t-shirt. For the math-challenged, that's $160 worth of clothing that's going to end up smelling like stale beer from all those keg stands (which you may be able to avoid if your man is wearing the $44 Reef flip-flops with the bottle opener in the sole, pictured above) and being smeared with grease-paint from the chest-bump salutes of your fellow fans. Or rather, $160 worth of clothing if you don't wear pants, underwear, or shoes. Which, as we know, is a look that only works for Britney Spears.

I get that we're trying to build some Big City cred here in Loueyville, but must we adopt the Big City Bad with the Big City Good?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friends of Lou?

Heyyyy... wait a doggone minute!!!
Lou, ever-aware of her status as unpaid and underappreciated cheerleader for her adopted city, decided to blog about Louisville's new civic relocation campaign: "Save a Life: Share Louisville." And when she pulled up the new website ShareLouisville, what should she find???
Join the Friends of Lou mailing list!
Buy a Friend of Lou t-shirt!
I am totally on board for selling the "Lou-ness" of Loueyville to anyone who will listen, but who's this other Lou person and why do they need friends? This Lou needs friends! There's only one Lou and she's writing this...
I'm deeply disturbed (and feel like I deserve a free, adorable "I [heart] Louisville... and that's not the bourbon talking" t-shirt -- size small-- and a link on the website, at the very least).
Loueyville readers, don't let me down. We all [heart] Louisville and believe in sharing the wealth, but let the Share Louisville folks know that there's only one Lou and she's been loving on the city since May (longer if you count the old blog). Email them at:

SDF: Airport Insecurity?

A few days ago, the crack TSA folks at Logan International Airport in Boston arrested at gunpoint a 19 year old MIT student for coming to the airport to pick up her boyfriend while wearing a t-shirt with a blinking computer panel on it. Note that she was not trying to get on a plane, just trying to pick up her man; she was, in fact, outside the terminal.

Star Simpson had come to the airport before school. She'd worn the shirt to show off her talents with circuitry because it was Career Day. On the back of the shirt it read: "Socket to Me" and "Course VI," MIT shorthand for the electrical engineering/comp sci combined major-- so basically her resume. She's an electronics expert, and she's even received a Congressional citation for her work in robotics. Did I mention that she is 19?

While she was standing outside the terminal, Simpson was approached by an armed trooper who was later joined by another trooper armed with a submachine gun. State Police Major Scott Pare, the airport's commanding officer said after she was arrested, "She’s lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."

In response to folks who insisted that the troopers did the right thing and that we should all feel lucky to have these hyper-vigilant security guys on the public payroll, Will Femia says in his Clicked column: "I might feel luckier if I thought they had the ability to recognize an actual bomb and not just freak out over everything that looks like a red wire/blue wire suspense scene from a Die Hard movie. God forbid another Shoey Shoebomber strolls through while everyone is dazzled by blinking lights."

In Loueyville news, Roommate has returned from nearly three weeks away and on Monday I helped him take back his rental car to the Louisville International Airport (SDF). I told him I'd wait in the passenger pick-up area (too cheap to pay the $1 parking fee), and if the security dudes came by and asked me to move on, I'd just keep "making the loop" until Roommate was ready.

Venerable Old Jalopy has been giving me some headaches lately. And while I idled in park right outside of baggage claim, Jalopy decided to act up. When Roommate finally showed up after 15 minutes or so (no security telling me to move on), I went to slip the shift into drive... and couldn't. He started up just fine, but no budging the shift from park.

Start it up-- mash the break-- try to shift. Nope. Over and over.

After some time, Roommate reasoned that if he disconnected the battery, the car may "reset" and forget that it hated me. So as I'm making phone calls to various VW help lines, Roommate is using my big Roadside Assistance Tool Kit to fiddle around with wires and plugs under the hood.

Finally, after three different calls to three different Volkswagen entities, a kind woman at the roadside assistance center informed me that, essentially, Jalopy has a “cheat code” to bypass whatever weird virus is causing his refusal to shift out of park. (Why is my car like an xBox game??) After two tries, Jalopy concedes, and we hit the road around an hour or so after I’d arrived at SDF.

I’m not complaining, necessarily; in my fragile, annoyed, and panicky state the last thing I needed was to be harassed by the Airport Fuzz. At Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans, even before 9/11, if you so much as shifted your car into park while you were waiting for an arriving passenger, you’d be visited by airport security and treated to a rap on the window and the admonition to “move along.”

A Louisville International? Bupkus.

Should it concern me that in the hour or so that the Jalopy vs. Lou & Roommate war raged on in the arrivals lane, a casual observer would have noted:

  • A visibly disturbed woman behaving erratically.

  • Aforementioned visibly disturbed woman speaking with animated frustration on her cell phone.

  • The accomplice to the woman removing a black box from the trunk of the car; a box, that when opened, revealed a tangle of wires and tools.

  • The accomplice tinkering around under the hood of the car and sparks flying on one occasion.

Methinks yes. It should concern me.

For all you VW Bug drivers, the cheat code is: Press the break 5 times, and on the fifth time hold it down. Turn the key ¼ turn and drag the gear shift to some phantom place between Neutral and Drive (this is hard to do). Then turn the key all the way and shift immediately into Drive. It works. It’s just hard.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

O'Reilly's Sole Food: the Louisville Factor

If anyone ever asked me (so far they haven't) whose public scorn would I most welcome, Bill O'Reilly would be right near the top of that list. O'Reilly, Ann "Waaa! Why doesn't anyone declare a fatwa against me?" Coulter (answer: because you're irrelevant), Rush Limbaugh, the big W, Karl Rove (although that might make me piss my pants too), etc.

So I would like to extend a big, enthusiastic, Loueyville YOU GO GIRL! to Tamara Ikenberg of the Courier-Journal who was, according to this article singled out for derision by O'Reilly for reporting on his recent bout with foot-in-mouth. I don't think he mentioned her by name (next time, Tamara! it's good to have goals!!), but he did mention the "Louisville Journal" as one of the many media outlets that have slandered him. Apparently everyone has taken out of context his words about the surprisingly good table manners and lack of "craziness" of the black guests at Sylvia's restaurant in NYC.

For the context, visit Media Matters (whom O'Reilly has likened to the Ku Klux Klan-- that's so cool!).

Loueyville in Malibu

BrodyWhy Louisville?, the fun and funky HQ of the "Fan Club for the City" (of which I should be a platinum member!), reports that Adrien Brody was spotted in Malibu last week sporting one of their lovely 502-tshirts. Brody, star of the upcoming movie Darjeeling Limited (whose release I was salivating over long before Owen Wilson's meltdown) and Oscar-winner for The Pianist is probably best known for his hilarious and swoon-enducingly smooth smooching of Halle Berry upon accepting said Oscar.

He's kinda funny looking, but he can hang in my area code whenever he wants.

Shop WhyLouisville's Brody Bargain Sale where you can get the 502-fleur de lis shirt for just $10 bucks! What a bargain! The store is located at 1609 1/2 Bardstown Road.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Michio Kaku

Apparently, Dr. Michio Kaku is everywhere and somehow I've missed it. Or at least that's what the presenter led me to believe. He's on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel... and here I was thinking that I was somehow tuned into those sort of pop-science things. After all, once upon a lifetime ago, I led the charge to compel Columbus, Indiana to erect a "Home Of" sign celebrating hometown hero Jamie Hyneman. To, of course, no avail.

In the introduction, it's mentioned that Kaku has been recently named one of the 100 smartest people in NYC. When he starts to speak, he says that Madonna is also on the list, so we shouldn't be too impressed.

When Kaku, who looks like a cross between Mr. Miyagi and a lion, took the stage for his sold-out speech, called "Parallel Worlds, Higher Dimensions, Time Warps, and More," Kaku, a theoretical physicist from the City University of New York, was greeted like a rock star. And he handled the crowd like a seasoned politician, preceding his remarks with a joke and sprinkling jokes and one-liners throughout. To paraphrase his first joke:

A theoretical physicist, a priest, and a lawyer are set to be executed by
guillotine. The priest is first. He's asked for his last words and he says that
faith will save him, and sure enough the guillotine falls and it stops just
inches from his neck. The crowd is amazed and he is set free. The lawyer is next
and his last words are "Justice will have Her way!" And again, the guillotine
stops just inches from his neck, and he's set free. The theoretical physicist
takes his place on the guillotine and says, "You know, the rope is hung up on
that pulley over there..."

When Kaku was a teenager, he built an atom-smasher in his garage whose magnetic pull was strong enough to pull out the fillings of anyone nearby. I have no idea what that means, but it's frigging impressive. Next year, an atom smasher with a 27km circumference will be activated just outside of Geneva. According to Kaku, this atom smasher will be so powerful that it will give us further insight into the Big Bang, and be able to, somehow create what he calls "tiny universes."

Kaku is a devotee of string theory and the idea that there are many more dimensions than we perceive in our lives on earth. He compared our lives to the lives of carp in a pond. They perceive forward and backward and left and right, but they only understand "up" to a certain point-- pull a carp UP out of the water and he is seeing the world from a dimension that was unimaginable to him while he was IN the water.

Picasso and Dali painted using the fourth dimension as a mode. Picasso's portraits relayed all dimensions of a person at once-- which is why said portraits look hopelessly messy to us; he tried to convey the idea of seeing all dimensions simultaneously. Dali, an endlessly more "realistic" painter than Picasso, still allowed for the dimension of "time" to be present in his artwork. The melting clocks. His hyper-cube Crucifixions.

He talked about Civilizations and how we are a type 0 civilization that is moving toward being a type I. Type 0 refers to a civilization that controls the power of particular geo-political regions. Type I controls the power of an entire planet. Type II controls the power of an entire star (solar system, I guess?). Type III controls the power of an entire galaxy. We are moving from 0 to I though the ubiquitousness of the internet, the burgeoning prevalence of English as a language, and the sway that Western culture has over the world. (I'm not sure I buy that... but whatever). Kaku says that earth will be a type I civilization in 100 years.

Kaku also discussed how all this science parlays quite nicely into spirituality. String theory suggests a beginning-- as in Genesis-- but also a timelessness-- as in the Buddhist belief in Nirvana.

Our civilization is threatened by both global warming and the death of the sun-- both problems could be solved by finding a wormhole that would allow us to pass from one plane to another. Like Alice in Wonderland, he said, a novel that dealt with bendy time and space.

For more information visit his website.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Neighborhood Association III: This Time It's Personal

Yes, I recognize that "This Time it's Personal" was the tag line for Jaws II not Jaws III, but...

For those of you who haven't been paying attention to the comments on the blog, there's a raging debate about my OHNA entries going on.

This is entry #1.
This is entry #2.

I started to post the following in the "comments" section, but I changed my mind and decided to make it an independent post.

The picture at the left is a photo of my grandparents' home in Connecticut. My grandfather died a few years ago and my grandmother died a little more than a year ago. My mom and her sister inherited the house, and despite my passionate protests and very vocal expressions of heartbreak, they're selling it. This is relevant to the post, I promise.

Anyway, for those of you who have been keeping track, I am in favor of the Highlands neighborhood pursuing a historic district designation. Those who oppose the historic district designation have-- at least on this blog-- contended that those who favor the designation just don't understand the issue.

I feel like I understand the issue. I may be a newcomer to this particular debate, but I have personal experience with historic neighborhoods. Here was the comment-- a response to an anonymous commenter-- that I was going to make and decided to turn into a traditional blog entry.

Lordy. Can't we all just accept that there are two sides to this issue? And the two sides are not people who have the RIGHT idea and people who don't know what they're talking about?
Anon, since the beginning I have accepted the fact that you've done your research and come to Conclusion X. Please accept that I have ALSO done my research and come to Conclusion Y. I don't need to be "converted." I just want the Xs and Ys to come to a democratic solution where majority-- a REAL majority, a measured and CONCLUSIVE majority- makes the decision.

I do not have "ignorance of fact." I've read the same documents that you have; I just came to a different conclusion. A preservation district suits my own personal interests and fits in with my greater understanding of community. As I mentioned in one post or another, I am willing to abide by certain provisos. I don't see this as "sacrificing rights." I see this as agreeing to enter into a pact with my neighbors to preserve this beautiful, historic neighborhood.

I grew up in such a place. There was a neighborhood in my hometown where 90% of the homes were built in the 1600s and 1700s. It is, indeed, like visiting a museum. The preservation of these homes was for the public benefit (so few places left you can see true colonial architecture), but also to the benefit of the homeowners (property values are obscene). In this neighborhood, there are only a dozen or so "approved" exterior paint colors. You can't add onto a home unless the addition cannot be viewed from the road or the ocean. By car or by boat, a visitor to the town was supposed to "see" the historic footprint of the village. If a homeowner wishes to buck these provisos, it is a very long, very complicated, and very unforgiving appeal process.

In contrast, in the same town but a different neighborhood, my grandparents owned a house that once was also historic (although late 1800's and early 1900's architecture). They bought their home in the 70's and since then the homes around them have been bought by NY and NJ "summer residents" who have torn down the adorable cottages and rebuilt hideous (in my opinion) modern monstrosities. My grandparents are now dead and my family has put the cottage on the market and they are desperate to find a buyer who won't level the home and build a McMansion. And, frankly, it's just not going to happen. It will be sold (in fact, it's in negotiations as I write) and be torn down and a new home will be erected in its place. And a piece of history will be forever lost.

So, I GET this issue. And I get that you, Anon, claim to get this. You've read the same things that I've read and you've just decided that restrictions placed upon historically designated areas don't suit you and your lifestyle. That your plans for your home and your neighborhood do not match mine. Fine. I'm not going to tell you that if you talk to me or to Mr. Riddick that either of us will be able to bring you over to our side of the issue.

Listen, the Highlands ain't a colonial whaling village or my grandparents' summer cottage neighborhood, but the homes here are precious, beautiful, and unique-- I'm appalled that anyone would say that a historic home, however ratty, should be torn down and not rehabilitated. That's just my own experience and my own priorities. But can we just agree to disagree and move forward knowing that there are two equally educated and equally heartfelt positions? Maybe never the twain shall meet...

But that's okay.

The end.

Anyway, seeing as though there is nothing I can do to stop the sale of my grandparents' home-- 3 br, 1.5 bath, one block from Long Island Sound, water views from the porch-- drop me an email if you're interested in purchasing it. So far, three buyers have already fallen through. But don't you dare email me if you're planning to tear down this sweet little house to build a goliath. This is the home where I first learned to read. This is the home where my dying father had his last vacation. This is the home that my grandparents retired too-- their dream home. This is the home where I spent my summers fishing for crabs all day and reading all night. This is the home where both of my grandparents spent their last days.

Because the neighborhood has become one of elite summer homes and rental properties, this home's empirical history has no value in the real estate market anymore. This devaluation could have been halted had the neighborhood protected itself years ago. Now the house is just a plot of land with a disposable cottage. But not to me.

My 101 year old Louisville home is not disposable. It is a concrete representation of the history of this remarkable city. I have no emotional history in this place, like I do in my grandparents' home, but I sure intended to make my own history here.

Woes of a Wanna-be Geek

See, the thing with being a wanna-be is that you have Big Ideas but you don't have the knowledge to actually implement them. My webpage Loueyville is evidence of that. The program I'm using-- free program... again, how much can you really complain about free stuff?-- has lost its mind, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to help it FIND its mind again.

As a result, it looks like poo.

Sorry, folks. I think this is going to be an omlette situation. Going to have to break the egg and start from scratch. (That was a very poor metaphor-- it's Friday. Forgive.)

If any of you fair readers know of good (free) web design programs that don't require a knowledge of HTML, let me know. I'd say that my web design program was a piece of crap, if I didn't have a sneaking suspicion that the piece of crap may be me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Woz

The caveat with not posting immediately after events is that notes and memories cease to make perfect sense. So throughout this post I will regale you with my nonsensical notes in italics-- maybe you can decipher them. This will be, I'm sorry, the most disjointed entry. In the end, what's important to note, is that I came away feeling totally jazzed by his enthusiasm and charmed by his stories.

Steve Wozniak, iconic co-founder of Apple, was Friday's keynote speaker. I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that the food was fantastic. Going alone was, however, a bit like going to a wedding where you don't even know the bride and groom-- I milled around for a good half hour before finally finding an unassuming-looking couple whose table was empty.

I have to admit that the name "Woz" didn't resonate with me the same way Steve Jobs or Bill Gates might have. Sure, I knew who he was, and afterwards I was very happy that I had gone, but I get the feeling that Woz is a geek's geek. And while I proudly admit to being a nerd, and I am enamored with geeks in general, I'm clearly just not that kind of geek.

Wozniak was introduced by Phoebe Wood, the CFO of Brown Foreman, who cited his many accomplishments, but I definitely got the feeling that she just wasn't that kind of geek either.

Woz insists that he wasn't a college drop-out; he just left because he didn't have the money to stay. After he founded Apple and then left the company (and survived an aircraft crash) he returned to school and finally earned his undergrad degree from UC Berkley under the name Rocky Raccoon Clark.

Odd note #3: Is he gay? He looks like [my childhood dance teacher]. (Who was gay, although I didn't know what that meant at the time. I thought my childhood dance teacher had adopted the young, hot male dancer who lived with him. When my mom said he was gay-- that he liked men-- I just thought that mean that my dance teacher was happy... and he liked men. Big deal.)

Answer: No, Woz is not gay.

When he was a teenager, he told his dad that he wanted to be an engineer first and then a fifth grade teacher after that. And he ended up doing just that. He taught fifth grade for eight years. Imagine being taught by a man with his experience?

Odd note #8: Compared building a computer to playing a prank.

Wozniak had a hand in creating: the first scientific calculator, the first VCR, the first sattelite TV dish, the first hotel movie delivery system (yay-- porn away from home), the first dial-a-joke service (which got him sued by the Polish American Congress)... he met his wife through dial-a-joke.
He also created Breakout-- the Atari time-sucker of my youth.

Odd note #15: Remember Scott [a former employee of mine] from [my old place of business] and his favorite story about me-- the Windows transfer folders flying through the air???

I can only sort of explain what that note means... it's the last note I have on Woz's speech (in my defense, I was listening pretty carefully). Lo these many years ago, when computers were still new and charming, we got new computers with Windows installed in them in the office that I ran. And when I was transferring files from the old computers to the new ones, I observed the animation of little documents flying from one folder to another folder on the screen and grabbed Scott and pulled him over and made him watch. And I said something like, "Isn't it amazing that some computer geek somewhere cared enought to create this little cartoon? It's such incredible attention to detail!" And for years afterward, Scott retold that story to anyone who would listen. I have to say, Scott was the best kind of employee that anyone could ever hope to have-- enthusiastic and utterly devoted to me and to the business. Even when I was promoted and Scott was promoted to fill my position, when we would meet at manager's meetings in Los Angeles, he'd cite that story as being one of the reasons he liked working with me-- because I appreciated even the silly small stuff that people did to make other people's lives better.

That's a long winded way of getting to this point: although my recollections and notes are muddy and disjointed, the feelings and message I got from Steve Wozniak's speech basically amounted to this: God is in the details. The little things are the most precious things. If it's not fun, in some way, it's not worth doing.

Avast ye Mateys!

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! 

See what's new at and Make AOL Your Homepage.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- James McLurkin

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for geeks. I know nothing about James McLurkin, except what he told us during his "Robot Swarms" speech at IdeaFestival, but I spent the rest of the festival looking for him, hoping to have the chance just to say hi and to tell him how much I loved his demonstration. The whole time he was speaking, I thought: "I just want to be friends with this guy..." Or maybe I'm censoring myself a bit; maybe I was really thinking: "Is he married? Does he have a girlfriend? How hard would it be to have a long distance relationship with someone in Boston? My family lives just outside of Boston..." You get the idea.

McLurkin's speech was entitled: "Dances with Robots-- The Story of one Engineer, 112 Little Robots, and the Toys, Insects, and Star Wars Movies that Made it all Possible."

First of all, the man worked at iRobot for years, the people who invented the Roomba-- a machine I've become obsessed with and yet do not own. I just can't fathom spending $200+ (I really want the Scooba because of my plethora of hardwood floors) on something that I'm just too plain lazy to do... but holy cow, if I ever win the lottery...

Anyway, back to the event: McLurkin works on distributive algorithms for swarm robots. In pedestrian terms, that means that he teaches a bunch of robots to work together to solve problems. An article in our local Velocity Weekly about McLurkin gave me a heads up on his research. He explained one of the practical applications of studying robot swarms as follows, using robot swarms to help with post-earthquake rescue missions:

that's a job that humans are either too big or too weak to perform. So (we could
have) a bunch of cockroach-sized robots that can look for signs of life and then
relay their findings to maybe rat-sized robots. They would analyze the structure
and figure out the right way to remove the debris, and then they relay their
instructions to a bunch of brontosaurus-sized robots who would then do the hard
work and heavy lifting.

During his presentation, he gave two small-scale exhibitions of what a couple dozen mini-robots could do. Programs that made them follow the leader compelled the mini-robots to sing "Hi-ho-hi-ho It's Off to Work we Go;" those that made them disperse across a plane called for them to sing "Into the Wild Blue Yonder." These tiny, stapler-sized robots had not just a command of obedience, but also, dare I say personality (albeit McLurkin's?). At the end of the presentation, they aligned in groups to perform a melodic and accurate marching band rendition of the Star Wars theme song.

McLurkin cited bees and ants (he has a huge ant farm at home) as inspiring his research into distributed algorithms. Essentiallly it is the act of dividing a big math/physics/science problem among a huge group of problem-solvers. It's hard to program one robot, he said, but he's facing the challenge of programming hundreds if not thousands of robots. Robot swarm technology could be the future of planetary exploration or even nano-bio technology.
My photos of his demonstration came out badly. So I went to his website to grab a photo. He showed this photo during his presentation saying: "Like all good engineers I was hatched from a cardboard box." It made me laugh. Ahhh Geek humor

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007: Karen Walker

It’s worth noting that, bored, two nights before Karen Walker’s event, I watched the last two episodes of last year’s “America’s Top Model” back-to-back. I’d never seen it before. Actually, I watched the first episode and during the second episode when my favorite, Renee was disqualified for looking “too old,” (SERIOUSLY? She’s 20 years old!! She can’t even drink!! Yes, she’s a mom, but holy cow…) I let TiVo do its thing and only watched to see who won (thank goodness it wasn’t Natasha—what did they see in her? Jaslene was a godawful choice too—if she weighed 90 lbs, I’d be surprised, but she was better than the plastic-y Natasha).

I bring this up because after Karen Walker’s talk was over, a journalist who works for Wired Magazine asked her about the growing sentiment in the fashion world that runway models shouldn’t be too thin. And she totally flubbed the answer. I was nuts about her until she was forced to face that issue and the best that she could come up with was: “we hire models that make the clothes look good.” I thought it was a daring question—frankly one of the best audience questions I heard during the Idea Festival (where many questions were posed by people who’d clearly not been listening or by folks who had agendas). During her speech, a montage of her fashion shows played on screens behind her, and what made me nuts about her was the fact that she designed clothes that even I would be interested in wearing. But those clothes that I—short and less-than-svelte—could wear were on decidedly scrawny girls.

Karen Walker got her start eighteen years ago with $70 by designing a shirt and consigning it at a local boutique in New Zealand. Now she’s showing her collections at NY’s Fashion Week and at Fashion Weeks in London and Paris and Milan. She has a line of eyewear, jewelry, paint colors, and a lifestyle line. And her speech focused on the Karen Walker brand, and how despite the volatile nature of the fashion industry, she’s managed to build her brand and stay true to her vision. She was, in short, (and despite my feelings about her lack of answer to the model question) an ideal model for any entrepreneur.

Her speech outlined, basically, her secrets to success. The eight points were:

  1. Embrace volatility. Diversify; build your brand so it represents more than one thing, but don’t dilute your brand by offering it up to sub-quality knockoffs. In the 80’s and 90’s Gucci licensed its name to more than 200 different vendors and designers and lost control of its image. Brand-building is all about control.

  2. Ignore the rules; try not to learn them in the first place. She cited the NZ slang term “number eight wire” as being critical for her creativity. The term refers to a type of fencing wire that was readily available in colonial NZ, when it was cut off from most of the world—a sort of duct-tape like wire that allowed New Zealanders to cobble together all sorts of thing McGuyver-like. Make do with what you have, she said. It never occurred to her that she should have a design degree, she said, or a business degree before starting a business. Just go with what you have.

  3. Everything Inspires. This is a quote from Paul Smith, a British designer. And to illustrate this idea, she showed a slideshow of the random things that had inspired her last ten collections—everything from the eyewear of dictators around the world to Alice in Wonderland to B-movies from the 50’s.

  4. Look for the scary stuff. All design should make you border-line uncomfortable.

  5. Know your style. Coupled with the “scary stuff” she said this meant knowing “the right amount of wrong.”

  6. Know your customers. Walker has never done market research. She said to cater to the “same singular voices in everything you do.” She calls her market “PLU”—“people like us.” Her designs have been worn by celebrities as diverse as Bjork, Madonna, and Claire Danes, and she says she doesn’t design for a market, but designs what she likes and people who are like her will like what she does.

  7. Surround yourself with people who support you. A few years ago, she approached the makers of 42 degrees below vodka to cosponsor an event; they liked her designs so much they put her on the board. It’s since been sold to Bacardi (I think) and the mutual love-fest propelled both their brands.

  8. Brand building is like building coral. It’s slow and tedious and over the short-term, it’s hard to see. But take a step back and the growth is very clear.

Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Thursday Night "Taste of Innovation" and "It Never Got Weird Enough for Me"

Thursday was fairly low key. I hightailed it down to the convention center to hit my first event, which was the Taste of Innovation featuring sampling booths from most of Louisville’s best restaurants. This gets a “Cheap Eats” rating because for $10 you could eat and drink to your heart’s content—sampling food that would be $20+ a plate at nearly all of the restaurants. A chefs and a bartender gave demonstrations. Everything I had was extraordinary (with the exception of an uneatably weird sushi-tuna-steak thing from, surprisingly Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse—he of “refused service to OJ Simpson” fame).

Leave it to me, however, to have preferred the booze to all else—Woodford Reserve’s Liquid Bourbon Ball was a drink that I will no doubt add to my repertoire—seems like a great winter drink. You can find the recipe here.

The silent auction quickly mounted beyond my price-range, but there were still good deals to be had if you had $500+.

The Hunter Thompson documentary “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride” aired first on the Starz! Network and was part of the IF After Dark series in an event called “It Never Got Weird Enough for Me.” The movie, narrated by Nick Nolte, and all but stolen by Gary Busey in all his addled-wackiness, featured the highlights of Thompson’s life from his childhood in Louisville to his suicide at Owl Creek Ranch in 2005.

In September of 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, I stopped in my exile at a writer’s retreat in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The guest teacher was Tom Corcoran, the writer of the Alex Rutledge mysteries, and he’d just returned from Thompson’s memorial service which had been largely funded by Johnny Depp and during which Thompson’s ashes were blasted out of a two-thumb-fist-topped cannon. Tom’s stories of the event (scroll down to 9-8-05 “Flip Flop” entry) were a nice, brief diversion. I half expected to see him in the movie. I did not expect to see my staid, distinguished, bow-tie-wearing real estate agent (actually, the brother of my real estate agent who stood in for her at my closing) as one of Thompson’s childhood friends.

The University of Louisville is currently trying to get its hands on the Thompson archives. From what I understand, there’s been some double-dealing and weirdness associated with that acquisition, as highlighted by an audience member who directed a question at Thompson’s son, Juan, during the panel discussion. I’ll try to remember to look into that.

The panel featured Juan Thompson, the director Tom Thurman, the writer Tom Marksbury, and childhood friend Ralston Steenrod (not my real estate agent). The film was interesting enough for me to consider moving on to a Thompson read-fest after I finish my Harry Potter read-fest. The panel discussion wasn’t particularly illuminating, although it’s worth noting that Marksbury seemed a bit bitter that the Starz! Network tried to make the film “more about Johnny Depp and Sean Penn” than about Thompson

Loueyville Special Edition: IdeaFestival 2007-- Big Brains Invade Louisville

At the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, there’s that wonderful moment when, after witnessing the Whos’ selflessness and love in the face of adversity, the Grinch is reformed. And his little red heart grows and grows (three sizes) and finally bursts the cartoon x-ray screen.

This weekend my cartoon brain (symbolized by a lightbulb or maybe a complicated drawing of gears and bolts) exploded. Or perhaps I should phrase that in the passive voice: my cartoon brain was exploded by the 2007 Idea Festival, a three days of events here in Louisville featuring some of the Biggest Brains from all over the world.

I was like a little kid when I got the email from the Courier-Journal a week or so ago telling me that I’d won a drawing for a free all-access pass to the Idea Festival. I’d (surprise, surprise) put off getting tickets to the events, many of which were free, so long that most of them had sold out. Not to mention that the keynote event, a night with Ray Bradbury, was out of my price range at $75 a pop. I quickly emailed them back and said I wanted a ticket for every event on Saturday, and every event after school on Thursday and Friday. And then I spent the remaining days before the opening of Idea Festival in giggly, nerdy, woo-hoo anticipation of the Festival.

That Louisville is the host of this event (this is its second year in Louisville; it spent its three incarnations in Lexington) is extraordinary. You’d expect this kind of gathering of diverse, cutting-edge thinkers in a “world class” city like NYC, LA, or Chicago. The Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation (a 20 year old institution) nurtured this event and Idea Festival founder Chris Kimmel has grown the event so that this year there were more than 15,000 tickets sold. Most events took place at the Kentucky International Convention Center which looks like crap from the outside, but is well appointed inside.

This year’s title sponsors, the Geek Squad, were ubiquitous in their pocket-protectored, penguin-Beetle driving, cheeky “Agent #”-named glory. Karen Walker, New Zealand fashion designer focused her speech not on “The Meaning of Fashion,” as was advertised, but on the importance of “branding.” I tell you, Geek Squad has it down for their audience. Perhaps not the true techno-geeks, but the wanna-bes like me. (Nice to note that the web page homepage features a photo of a female geek. Seemed like there weren’t many She-Geeks in attendance. Geek Squad had a Geek Squad Beetle on display in the lobby of the convention center—wish I had a picture—and on it you were supposed to post sticky notes with your Big Ideas. I stopped myself from posting “Hire more Girl Geeks!”)

Before I get into individual events, my general thoughts:

  • I wish it had been longer. I wish I had taken a day off to do all the Thursday or Friday events. I probably could have gotten a “professional day off” to do it. But come Saturday night, I was genuinely sad to not have any more Ideas to enjoy.
  • IdeaFestival sponsored a Middle School Science show on Friday. I didn’t get to attend. I did see a total of six of my students at the Fest, but I wish more had taken advantage of it. Wouldn’t it be great to somehow get more kids involved? I might keep that in the back of my head for next year.
  • Events like Ray Bradbury and Dan Gediman and Nicholas Kristoff (who I missed) did a great job opening up the event to Humanities folks; more should have been there. Even the most science-y presenters like Michio Kaku and James McLurkin made their far-out science understandable to the pedestrians.
  • I wish I’d bought an Apple laptop when I had to buy a new laptop last summer. Again, it’s that stupid branding thing again, but there were so many anti-PC jokes among the presenters that I felt like a grandma. On a purely practical level (probably the ONLY practical level), my website would have made me happier—Apples web design tools are great. Sorry that the website has gone kablooey, by the way. I’m working on it. I just wanted to be one of the cool kids in on the “in jokes.” No doubt some of the Apple-centricity of the event was because Steve Wozniak was one of the guest speakers.

    On to the individual events! (Note: it will probably take me a couple of days to post all of the events, so bear with me!)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Neighborhood Association, Part Deux

I suppose I shouldn't complain... if a blogger blogs at a coffee shop and nobody reads it, is she really blogging? But recently a friend of mine forwarded my blog entry about the OHNA meeting to the OHNA mailing list (which I am STILL not a part of!), and suddenly I'm getting actual readers. Like, folks I don't know. It's a bit unnerving. Especially the fact that I've been "outed" to a co-worker who recognized "me" (and herself, I'm sure) in the entry. I've got to watch myself now-- no more blogging about my bank heists and the weekends I've spent at the North Pole clubbing baby seals.

Anyway, one of the comment-ers on my OHNA entry asked if I'd read the Historic Preservation Ordinance, and in fact I have. It's long. It's boring. It's full of legalese. But I urge everyone who has taken or is planning to take a position on the Ordinance to read it in its entirety here. This debate is too important and has gotten too ugly for people to blindly take sides without understanding the issue.

That being said, I hope readers who turned to the blog for the OHNA entry will read for the fun stuff too. Sure, every once in a while I lapse into "left wing kook" mode, but mostly I eschew politics in favor of exploring all the fantastic things this city has to offer, like cornhole, giant tomatoes, and BirdZerk!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Actor's Theatre: Fire on the Mountain

Once you reach a certain age, it's time to step back and evaluate. Who are you? What do you want? What are you good at? I don't think I've reached that age yet (even though, as of a week ago today, I'm officially older than Jesus ever was, and he had it figured out in spades), but I do know that one thing I'm really good at is procrastination. Many people, if not most, procrastinate the arduous chores, but I'm prone to procrastinate even the good stuff. Like getting a little culture in me.
Recently, I decided not to leave it to chance and signed myself up (using the handy dandy educator's discount) for a 7-play season ticket for Actor's Theatre of Loueyville. The theory goes: I'm much less likely to procrastinate an event that I've already paid for. Roommate got one two, so now I have a partner-in-culture.
Tuesday, we went to see Fire on the Mountain, a musical (bordering on folk-opera) about Appalachian coal miners. According to Actors' website:
Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman culled some thirty songs from the wealth of music
inspired and created by the Americans of Appalachia. Folk music, which includes
traditionals, blues and bluegrass, has been in renaissance in recent years
thanks to the success of movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the release
of several compilations including “Kentucky Mountain Music.” Like most folk
music, every song in Fire on the Mountain tells three stories—the story in the
song, the story behind its creation and the story the performer wants to share.
Both inspiring and tragic, the musical featured outstanding vocal and instrumental performances, and reinvigorated my desire to find somewhere to audit course on the history of Kentucky. The Pamela Brown Auditorium is intimate enough that there isn't a bad seat in the house (that being said, we had terrific, front-row balcony, seats).
If you go on a week-day, don't bother splurging on garage parking ($5 or $4 if you have a season-ticket holder discount coupon). There's ample street parking nearby. We went to pre-theatre drinks at the Pub on 4th Street Live. Happy hour beers are still a bit pricey, but the battered mushroom and onion ring appetizer was excellent.
Coming up next month in the season series: The Underpants by Carl Sternheim, adapted by Steve Martin.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Editorial: Louisville becoming typical college football town?

Once upon a time, Lou lived in Baton Rouge. Only for a year, but long enough for Lou to get a sense of what life in a college football town was like. Folks in Baton Rouge decked out their houses in purple and gold lights and banners and signs like it was Christmas; some even went so far as to paint their usually neutral-colored porches LSU colors during the season. (And, by the way "the season" always referred to football season, not holiday season, not even Mardi Gras season... although it may be different now that LSU's basketball team is a force-- Lou loves Big Baby!).

Roommate lived in Knoxville for seven or eight years, so he knows football towns too. When we moved here last summer and football season started, we both thought it was so nice that Louisville seemed like a rare football town. A town where football stars and coaches take their place among the pantheon of local sports stars. A town where rooting for the football team appeared to be more of a matter of civic pride than single-minded obsession. And we partook of that civic pride with gusto, cheering the Cardinals on to the Orange Bowl enthusiastically.

Or maybe, last season, fresh to the city, we were all too willing to overlook the signs of hysteria. This season, though, with the newness of our new home somewhat rubbed off, Louisville fandom (to me, I can't speak for Roommate) seems to have drunk some serious Kool-aid.

Despite the fact that 90% of my blog entries are seriously biased, I felt obliged to label this an editorial because I know what I am about to say is the product of my current pouty, pissy mood. Abandon all hope, ye who read further... you're about to enter the realm of Lou's hypocritical, poor loser, bitchiness...

Roommate left yesterday for a business trip preceded by a camping vacation in the wilds of Connecticut (there be wilds in Connecticut?), so I thought what better way to celebrate my home-aloneness than to watch the NFL kickoff Saints vs. Colts game in the social comfort of one of our local drinking establishments? Roommate is a Colts fan and I, of course, am a Saints fan; in our 5+ years as companions, we've always enjoyed a good row during these games.

So I set off on the circuit of my favorite local bars and found not one, not two, but the first three bars I stopped at had every TV turned to the Louisville Cardinals game. At the second place I stopped at, the bar I have probably clocked the most hours at since coming to this city, I asked the bartender-- who knows me-- if she couldn't possibly turn the tiny TV in the corner to the Saints game. And she said, "Sorry honey, all the TVs work off the same box"-- which is totally not true. As I said, I've been in there a blue million times...

The 4th bar I stopped at-- Buffalo Wild Wings on Bardstown-- has a TV for every three patrons, and yet the Saints vs Colts game was only on one-- a tiny TV in the corner. Seemed good enough for me until I realized that I was hooting and hollering when the rest of the bar was silent.

It seems relevant to mention the fact that the Cardinals were playing an unranked team, and at half time were only up by three... a pretty abysmal showing. And despite the fact that they're working under a new coach (popularly dubbed "Coach K," much to the disgust of my Roommate who asserts that there is only one Coach K in college athletics-- and in his defense, can we seriously not pronounce the name Kragthorpe??), local sports pontificators are balls-afire about the fact that we could go "all the way." Sure they beat Middle Tennessee by 16 in a 58-42 game, but is giving up 42 points the mark of a team that could go "all the way"?

As I said, these are the teary, beery, sour grapes opinions of a woman whose team just lost by 31 points. But do all these college fans put their NFL allegiances aside, especially those to a team from just a little over 100 miles away, until Cardinal season is over? They didn't seem to last year.

To the credit of the Louisvillagers, as I made my way from bar to bar, wearing my Saints baseball cap, I was stopped THREE times and told: "Go Saints! America's Team!" America's team? Really? Once, I could have understood, but three times? When I was a kid the Cowboys were America's team. Who were America's team between the two? Hey, I'm not complaining, especially because America's team just lost by 31 points. Small victories.