Monthly Archives: July 2016

Photo Friday! Sojourn to Twin Falls

There are not many places in Nashville to escape the relentless summer heat, but with a little planning, a 90-minute drive can get you to to a number of swimming holes and waterfalls perfect for those much needed respites.

Last weekend we trekked out to Rock Island State Park for a bit of hiking, swimming, and waterfall admiration. The big falls there, Twin Falls, looks like something right out of The Jungle Book. Several foot paths traverse the park and some of them lead to delightful swimming spots. There is also a wide, natural sand beach along the river with views of a towering cliff face and swooping hawks. We got a couple of burgers from the local Rock Island Market and Cafe (very tasty) and had ourselves a lovely picnic.

Here are some of the photos from the journey. Enjoy, and happy Friday!

twin falls wide

Twin Falls

archie josh 2

This was Archie’s first time swimming…the flailing was hilarious and painful, what with the scratching

plataeu falls

twin falls

forest stream

river

Lazy River. But no, it does not go in a circle.

swimming hole

This was the more popular swimming location.

swimming hole2

The swimming here was lovely and cool. Bit of a current though, and deeper than you think.

twin falls through trees

Archie and Em

Proud of our brave little buddy.

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Filed under Inspiration and Creativity, Life is good and here's why, Photography, Travel

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters Review!

ghostbusters-2016I was surprised the other day to get a text from my sister telling me to see the new Ghostbusters movie. I’d heard mixed things from the media and was, I confess, deterred by accusations of mediocrity at best and vapidity at the worst. But we ventured down to the theater to give it a shot, and I’m rather glad we did. Though short of exceptional, the rebooted Ghostbusters excels in ways that pleasantly surprised me.

Let’s begin with the elephant in the room: the new ghostbusters are all women. Why this should be such a large subject of conversation–and concern for some– is a sad state of affairs exposing ongoing inequities between male and female portrayals in media. I read an article yesterday that pointed to the fact that only 22% of 2015 films had female protagonists, up from 12% in 2014, that women only have a third of the lines compared with male counterparts, and that women make up only 17% of crowd scenes. Given these stats, I bought my ticket to Ghostbusters nervously, concerned that either the women would appear weak or that a feminist agenda–as noble as it may be–would cause the story to suffer. Fortunately, the agenda was accomplished because the story allowed the women to simply be themselves: driven, funny, curious, and–for once–not obsessed with men or body image. I loved seeing four women acting without self-consciousness, without apology for either femininity or the lack of it, and without resorting to raunchiness, grotesque violence, or potty-humor. This latter point so often occurs with female-driven comedy (consider Spy and Bridesmaids), as if the comediennes weren’t capable of carrying the film by themselves and needed to mask, or compensate for, their femaleness with cheap and provocative stunts. Ghostbusters, praise be, proves women are people too, and does so without being annoying. 

With the elephant out of the way, let’s look at the story. The reboot does a good job of paying homage to the original Ghostbusters films without copying them completely. I appreciated how the four new characters were just that: new characters. They did not line up one to one with the original four, but stood on their own and left me wanting to see more of them. Overall, the plot was engaging and, as others have said, while some of the jokes fall flat, the ones that hit hit home. I do have two criticisms though:

  1. One of the paradoxes of storytelling is that the best stories are often the ones where the most goes wrong. I watched Two Towers the other day and recall Samwise’s words: The best stories, the ones that really matter…sometimes you didn’t want to know the ending because how could it possibly be happy? Unfortunately for Ghostbusters, the conflict never grabbed my sympathies enough to fear for the characters. There was no, as film aficionados call it, a ‘dark night of the soul,’ where the characters face a deep temptation to quit in light of overwhelming obstacles. This dark night need not be complicated; I just wish there were a scene where the characters doubted themselves, or doubted their friendship, and had to make a choice to persevere. A better villain would have helped, too.
  2. One distinct advantage the original Ghostbusters has over the reboot is a backstory for the ghosts. The new movie fails to give motive for the ghosts’ destructive desires. It is easy to suspend disbelief as to the presence of ghosts, but they are characters too and need a reason to act. The new movie leans on the motives of the human villain, and sets up the ghosts as a mere consequence of disrupting a kind of paranormal infrastructure, similar to drilling on a fault line or blowing a fuse in an electrical grid. Could have used a bit more meat there.

Overall, Ghostbusters promises a good time and the satisfaction of seeing women at their best. At the very least, go to enjoy Melissa McCarthy’s quest for an appropriate ratio of dumplings, and Chris Hemsworth covering his eyes when there is a loud noise.

 

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Nashville and Its Future of Innovation

How do you intentionally plan for something that is usually serendipitous? Innovation, or the genesis and execution of novel solutions to a problem, as well as creativity more broadly, often comes about via mysterious means. Even so, few innovators ever leave it at that. Circumstances can be tweaked, environments can be shaped, and questions can be asked that ultimately yield smarter, targeted, and more innovative answers than previously conceived.

So what does it take to tweak and shape circumstances and environments? To find out, we, the Design Thinking Nashville group, have teamed up with the Nashville Innovation Project to see how we might foster more innovation in our growing city. Because Nashville is currently undergoing a population boom—cranes dominating the skyline, new businesses launching daily, and new residents bringing new ideas into the melting pot—the time is ripe for planning with intentionality. The NIP hosted multiple focus groups with business owners, developers, and policymakers, gathering experiences and opinions about what kinds of resources might make Nashville an innovation hot spot. With this feedback, we plan to apply Design Thinking methodology to address these questions with human-centered approaches and fast prototyping strategies.

To kick off the Design Thinking component of the project, we introduced the challenge to our monthly Caffy Hour meet-up group last Thursday morning. We tackled several of what we call “How might we…” questions in groups and in a (mere) hour came up with two prototypes that got me excited about the possibilities awaiting Nashville. The discussions yielded some important observations which I hope will encourage your own curiosity about what it takes to make craft an environment primed for innovative ideas.

  1. Innovation requires separation from the ordinary.
    I remember once when working for a non-profit I was tasked with designing the organization’s Christmas card. I struggled for hours coming up with multiple designs, all of which got rejected. When I finally detached myself from the project and started throwing some darts at a dart board, the winning idea miraculously manifested itself in my head. This instance exemplifies the fascinating paradox of creativity and psychology wherein we often come up with the best ideas while doing something completely out of the realm of the work for which we need those ideas. This is why creativity experts often suggest going for walks, taking showers, playing games, having lunch with people outside of your field, etc. Changing environments, pace, and company can give us what Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative, calls fresh stimuli, with which our brain can draw new connections. In other words, no new stimuli means no new ideas.

    Therefore, when designing to encourage innovation, the Caffy Hour conversations yielded the excellent point that whatever form the innovation resources took they had to present newcomers with fresh stimuli. Ideas included creating easily accessible public spaces where Artists in Residence could do demonstrations or innovators could display exhibits that challenge the passerby to strike up a conversation. We also envisioned indoor/outdoor public spaces offering free wifi and access to food and coffee where people could work, talk, and introduce their brains to new ideas.

  2. Innovation is fostered through cross-pollination and feedback.
    Both the focus groups and the Caffy hour group honed in on this point. In addition to removing ourselves from our physical and mental sphere and challenging our brain with new stimuli, innovative ideas can come from engaging in conversations with people who can help solve each others’ challenges, whether they are within the same industry, from a completely different industry, or hailing from an entirely different culture. Creating an environment that encourages conversation, mentorship, and feedback is paramount to designing for innovation. This raises an obvious difficulty however: you can’t force people to talk to each other. Michaela Powell, who manages daily operations at the Skillery, a co-working space in Germantown, assures us you can only do so much hand-holding during networking sessions. Because of this, conversations with strangers need to be incentivized. Fortunately, the Caffy Hour teams had some good ideas, including offering access to wifi, coffee, food, pay-it-forward mentorships, accelerator programs, association-wide memberships to Nashville’s co-working spaces, competitions and events, pop-exhibits in public spaces, online Nashville-centric social media networks, among many other ideas. We also played with the idea of creating public work stations with plaques above them, and users were welcome as long as they labeled their name card with what they were working on and be open for conversation or inquiry.
  3. Accessibility to resources and teammates is key. 
    Another common theme that arose from the many conversations had so far was the issue of affordability and accessibility. Co-working memberships are nice, but they only meet the needs of certain people and the budgets of even fewer. So how might we share resources, create environments for idea generation, and connect people across the city in ways that are accessible and affordable? The Caffy Hour groups looked at the idea of solving some of these issues by using public spaces. Like the Shake Shak in New York City, which has become a networking phenomenon just by being well-located and offering dozens of outdoor table spaces for meeting, Nashville could use its public spaces for similar purposes. One of the teams also drew sketches of an Innovation Bus, a large vehicle outfitted with whiteboards, prototyping supplies, wifi, and a seating area off the back for groups to use as needed for their brainstorming sessions. The beauty of this idea is that it can be moved to wherever it is needed on any given day, as well as include people outside the normal business spheres. For instance, the bus could potentially be used by students working on school projects, and serve a dual purpose as an education vehicle (in both senses of the word) as well as a professional one.
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This question of shaping Nashville into an innovation hub is ongoing. Contact me to learn more and join our efforts!

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Independence Day Reflections

This morning I saw a video on the news in which a man quizzed people on the street on their knowledge of American Independence. Needless to say, the findings were nauseating.

Of course, the video was likely edited to reveal the most embarrassing knowledge gaps–the ones who couldn’t name any founding fathers, the ones who didn’t know the year Independence was declared, the ones who couldn’t name the country from which we declared ourselves independent. But the concern remains that no American should deny themselves the heritage we’ve shared for 240 years.

We are part of a grand legacy—a beautiful and ongoing experiment that has lasted far beyond even the founding fathers’ hopes, but nevertheless still requires nurturing and stewardship.

Part of this stewardship requires recalling legitimate reasons to hope in both our history and our future. Gosh. Even saying that in such a cynical and disquieting time feels ridiculous. But what better time than this Independence weekend to pause and take stock? What have we as Americans to be thankful for?

I turn, as I annually, to do the films I watch approaching July 4th: the John Adams mini series and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The John Adams Independence episode makes painfully vivid the risk involved in committing treasonous acts against the crown for the sake of principles. I so dearly appreciate the gravity with which the series treats the conflict, as we so often undermine the threats the first Americans faced in light of their subsequent success and the United States’ eventual rise to global power. But this series takes us back to the time when nothing was certain, when a handful of people were tasked with leading a disparate population away from the familiarity of monarchy toward untested wisp of an idea of a future wherein authority would only be granted by consent of the governed, where no individual would be exempt from justice, and where human rights were inalienable; a government of laws, not men. No one knew how to realize this dream (it took a couple tries, if you remember). But it was and remains a beautiful dream, and this clip from John Adams pieces together many sentiments extracted from the real John Adams’ speeches and letters into a single speech defending the cause: 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington paints a similar picture of a war against tyranny but this time a 20th Century form of tyranny wherein individuals are attempting to undermine the system for personal gain. The whole movie is a beautiful reminder of America’s perpetual struggle against abuse of power in defense of liberty, as well as a boon to our love of underdogs.

WARNING: This clip features pieces of the climactic end scene of Mr. Smith. PLEASE…if you have no yet seen this movie in its entirety, stop and go watch the whole thing RIGHT NOW. Seriously, it’s one of the best films ever made, and I will not be responsible for screwing that up for you. You’re welcome.

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