Wishin' and Hopin' in the Grant World

Sometimes, what's next is just beyond the horizon. The great challenge in any kind of entrepreneurial work, whether it's starting a company or even starting a small proposal, is suspending belief that what you want to come true, will. Odds are that that doesn't happen all the time. But some of the time, it does.

And when it does - when that big grant comes through or that big partner decides to come on board - it's transformative.

It's all worth it.

Today, on the day I found out the proposal that I wrote on the fly in Sao Paulo got approved and will make a game-changing difference for one of my clients.

As Goethe said best, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Elmer's Glue

Much is made these days of what I call endocrinal psychology, of how hormones and other biochemical indicators affect the behavior of social groups. It's a hot topic in journalistic, psychological, and business circles.  Learning personnel and communications management is the core material of MBA programming, and people pay upwards of $150,000 to learn this. But in spending time with my sister in law and her ten year-month old baby this weekend, I witnessed that something deep and instinctual within women already knows that elusive end of the MBA arc, which is how to read people. In some wild endocrinal twist of fate, women know exactly when another human being - who, mind you cannot even talk - wants to sleep, play, eat, be cuddled, be changed, be bathed, or just chill out. Calming down an infant is a special magic all to itself, and women do this every hour of every day. Women can read the un-readable elements of the human face, and that has contributed mightily (if silently) to our survival as a species.

Listening to the quiet triumph of my niece having taken to her naptime, I saw that women are this Elmer's Glue holding the world together.  In every space in which people gather - boardrooms, living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms - a woman has either organized, cleaned, or given emotional order to the space. Without stitches, or cut-outs, or pastings, or scotch tape, women hold the air up. Hold houses together, and hold the world together. Pots and pans in place, and the world around, churning.

We give natural order to rooms in the home. Just imagine what we could do in Board rooms!

MOOCs (Massive Open Online...Churches)

Last week, I moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area, where my fiance and I will be based as I build out my consulting firm, Girasol Consulting, and he does his MBA at the Darden School of Business at UVA. 

This is such an odd cradle of America - its happenings were so historic, but all you hear now are just the calm chirping of crickets and cicadas. It's as if history was silent, and only the bugs remain.

Strolling downtown the other night, I poked my head into the UVA Chapel. It was past eight, so it was quite dark, but inside I saw this curious French plaque. It is from the University of Paris, given to Sergeant James McConnell, a UVA student who voluntarily enlisted in the French army. This French gift is quite noticeable - it's hanging in the central entrance to what is the ecumenical center of the university. 


In the age where much is made of MOOCs (massive open online courses), this international gift made me think of the nature of international education projects, and how they've changed. From a bronze plaque hung in a church to what might be an attractive JPEG on an open digital course page, the message is the same = we recognize you. 


The Wild Wild (Paulistano) West

The (dis)location of culture: culture is no longer generated in the Global North and consumed in the Global South; it's vice versa, up/down, and in-between. This video by Sao Paulo singer Mallu Magalhaes has sort of a Wild West look. But which one is she referencing - the Brazilian one or another one? (Brazil's huge rural sertao, with their clothing line cordeis, is their own version of a Wild West.)

Who knows? But, perhaps more importantly, who cares - it's fun music.


Fourth of July, Re-mixed

What does a multiracial American future look like?

Like this.

My hometown (and my parents’ current town) of Temple City, CA is a small east LA County town of veterans that has been transformed by recent immigration from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other locales. Wednesdays are concert nights during the summer, and its July 3rd concert looked like this:





It's nice to see everyone out for these concerts, even when "summer outdoor concert series" aren't necessarily a tradition in East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, or other areas. But residents young and old came out because, as an older woman stated, “It makes you feel good!”


Here is who originally dedicated the park:


And here's who are Temple City veterans today. Many are Filipino or Samoan.


Temple City youth are more re-mixed than in generations past. But they still look up and out - and smile.




Mechanomorphism, or biking Los Angeles

I did the LA River Ride this past Sunday, and it was an incredible experience. Sure, the event was fun, but the best part was the astonishing realization I had while riding. Somewhere around Hollenbeck Park, I thought…my body can be a machine.

It was mechanomorphism, along the LA River.

Growing up in Los Angeles, the car was always the way in which I knew my environment. That changed a little bit as I got into running as a teenager, but the extent of those journeys was four or five miles. Not twenty. It was exhilarating to bike along the river and see what I had (actually) never seen before up close: the flora and fauna of the river, the cute little homesteads along it, replete with fruit trees and roosters. I had never known there were birds in the LA River, much less how physically close the arts-y area of Los Feliz is to hard-struck northeast LA neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights. It was cool to actually see who lived there, and share the same bike path as residents as they went on their morning walks.

It was almost like touring some sort of living museum of revitalized Los Angeles, powered by your own two legs. When you cross a street with your body, you can feel distance and proximity in a way that the media, education, or curriculum can never teach you. You see that old Filipino janitors go to the same McDonalds as old white farmers, and they both like pancakes on Sundays.

That’s what’s radical about this exercise: seeing – and BEING – in your city in a whole new way. Inhabiting space that was formerly deemed uninhabitable.

Crossing Cesar Chavez Avenue, I felt so free and so light! Not at all like I did when I commuted; I wasn’t burning any money, only calories. And the Downtown buildings looked so majestic and tall. You somehow see things more clearly on a bike, even though you’re stripped away of the steel protection of a car. So much of Los Angeles is about filtration – from movie screen to viewer, from driver to car window.

Without a filter, being in the city is a much more intimate and enjoyable experience.

It creates this inspiring confidence, powering yourself over streets that are normally only traversed by cars. You create evidence that it is possible to mechanize our society in new ways – power ourselves off of oxygen, and not foreign (or national!) oil. We don’t have to dump money into a fixture that clogs our transportation system and ruins our health. Besides, if there was ever a bike-able major urban metropolis, it’s probably this one. The weather is temperate, and the LA Basin is mostly flat.

So in the city of Bladerunner, the most radical thing you can do is simply go back to the future: a car-less future.

It’s a privilege to know the city you’re from, and really understand its history from tree trunk to skyscraper to home to riverbed. Los Angeles is a cool place, especially if you take the time to know about it. It’s good to see each other, and see our city, more clearly. And if more and more people do this sort of thing, maybe the new generation of Angelenas (thirty years my junior) can see things differently.

Esther Williams and the Art of Swimming

Growing up in Los Angeles, I spent the warm summers of my early childhood watching MGM movies with my sister. We would sit there with potato chips and intrigue, and watch Meet Me in St. Louis, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and An American in Paris. The film industry is the larger set of Los Angeles itself, and movies felt very normal except for a couple of exceptional ones. Those with Esther Williams. She was singing and spinning and entertaining - doing the kicks we learned in ballet class - but while swimming.

It was unconscionable. I wondered, - "How did she twirl and not get water up her nose? How did she never forget to point her toes?" And, most hauntingly, "Doesn't she get tired?"

In the land of Disneyland, she was this incredulous person somehow suspended nautically, smiling above space and time.

Esther Williams underwater

My wonder was compounded by my young neuroses about swimming. My overly imaginative little writer's mind imagined sharks somehow drilling their way through the walls of the Los Angeles Athletic Club (?!?), and felt that rare dangers lurked amongst the chlorine.  I was a little Woody Allen, while here Esther Williams was doing a Chorus Line without breathing.

Looking back on her as an adult who now very much enjoys swimming and even did completed an open triathlon, I am less mystified by her. But I still think she's incredible. Not only as an entertainer and a professional, but as a woman in Hollywood. MGM built her her own tank:

And she was her own pop culture zeitgeist. Even Tom & Jerry wanted to swim like her:

Esther Williams taught me a lot about the art of swimming. She was Americas's mermaid, but also a very serious athlete and woman. RIP.