Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movie Review: District 9

So I'm on my way to bed but just had to write about District 9. This very cool new movie opened this weekend and it is really terrific. Without any well known actors in it (though they may be well known in South Africa where the movie is set) the movie is the story of a spaceship filled with aliens that came to South Africa 20 years ago. The ship was filled with suffering alien "Workers" who were relocated from the ship to District 9 which rapidly became a ghetto. The first part of the movie sets the scene as a documentary film crew tells of how the ship came to earth, what's gone on in the last 20 years and follows a mid level management type as he begins the daunting process of moving 1 million aliens to their new settlement.

Where it goes from there is completely different than anything I've seen in a long time. It's amazing to have seen two truly unique movies in one weekend. District 9 is riveting, disgusting, horrifying and thrilling all at the same time.

Now, I have to say while I liked the movie Mike did not. He gave it a D+. He felt there was no plot and there were a few too many plot holes. I agree about the plot holes but I only thought about them after. During the movie I was riveted and fascinated. That they could make such a great movie for 30 million was incredible. And I didn't miss having a well known leading man at all. In fact I predict that Sharlto Copley who plays the lead character, Wikus, will be well on his way to being a leading man - he's attractive and hey he's on the cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly.

One warning, there were several scenes where I did hide my eyes on Mike's shoulder - there are some gory parts that are not pleasant at all. Definitely not for little kids.

Monterey Aquarium: Save the Seahorses

So this post is about 1/3 Marketing, 1/3 Non Profit and 1/3 the cool thing I did this weekend. Yesterday my friend Ellen and I went to the Monterey Aquarium to celebrate her birthday. It was a gorgeous day and we were going primarily to see the Seahorses and Seadragons exhibit at the aquarium. It was a case of repeated viewing of tv promotions for the exhibit driving our desire to see them. So yes, TV marketing does work -even on Marketers who recognize what is being done and should know better than to succumb. But a big part of marketing is informing people of what is available and appealing to them. So some personal responsibility must be taken.

Now I've always loved seahorses - I had a dried one when I was a kid I'm now horrified to admit. It was a post vacation gift from my grandparents who saw it on one of their many trips to Florida and brought it back as a souvenir. Those dried seahorses. which are sold in all sorts of beach gift shops, are literally driving these beautiful creatures to extinction. Millions of seahorses are harvested every year for these gifts. So please join the boycott and help save the seahorses from extinction.

If you want to show your kids a seahorse go to the Monterey Aquarium where they can see them alive and hanging out with their friends. You will also get the chance to see Seadragons. They are amazing - that is not seaweed in the pictures - it is a real seadragon that looks like seaweed - very gorgeous.

Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

I have to admit - Friday was not a good day for me. I was inundated at work, odd things had been going wrong with my computer all week and I was nearly hit by two different cars on the 101 who's drivers were talking on their cell phones when they decided to merge into my lane while I was right next to them. So I was very much in the mood for a blow em up type movie like District 9. But since I planned to see that on Sunday (review to come sometime this week) we decided to keep to our original plan to see 500 Days of Summer. And wow, am I glad we did.

This is a charming little movie about the highs and lows of a 500 day relationship between Summer and Tom, two co-workers at a greeting card company. The first thing you find out is that this relationship does end but we get to see how they get there - the highs and the lows - all playing out in a somewhat random order since you are bounced between the beginning, middle and end of the relationship throughout the movie. And it really works well.

Zoey Deschanel is very lovely as Summer, who doesn't really want a relationship with Tom but gives out so many mixed signals that poor Tom is just never really sure what's going on. Joseph Gordon Levitt as Tom is a revelation. He's grown up extremely well and his acting in this is superb. You can't help but feel for Tom throughout the movie and curse Summer for not appreciating just how much he loves her.

I strongly recommend this movie. It can make a bad day much better, I'm proof of that. I came out of the movie relaxed and happy and that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Women Owned Business of the Year Awards

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at my desk working on the GHC program when I received a call. A woman from the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment was calling and asking me to be on their leadership council. I must admit I was taken aback. I hadn't heard of the organization before and I certainly wasn't used to be called to be on leadership councils of other non profits. As a marketer I'm used to securing speaking slots and awards for other members of my organization.

It soon became clear that the role of the leadership council was mostly promotional but I agreed to participate for a few reasons.

The first is that I think that unemployment and its impact on women is a huge issue in this recession. I couldn't help but think of friends who've been laid off. The Women's Initiative for Self-Employment's goal is to create a movement promoting women’s entrepreneurship and to get the word out about the Women’s Initiative’s training and support programs for low-income women who seek to become entrepreneurs. Anything that can help women become self supporting is to me a good thing.

The second reason I participated is that I enjoy using my marketing skills to help non profits succeed. I was able to include the announcement of the Women-Owned Business of the Year Awards in our newsletter and of course I'm telling everyone who reads this blog about it. I've also passed on the info to others I know so they can help seek more nominations.

The third reason is I participated is that I love to network and meet new people. The leadership council met a few days ago and it was great connecting with people in other organizations that are helping like the local Chambers of Commerce and the Santa Clara Convention Center.

The fourth reason is that as a member of the leadership council I'll get to go to one of the awards ceremonies which will be held in November. Google, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, is a major supporter of non-profits and it's always great to be able to participate in one of their events.

And the final reason I chose to participate is a personal one. When I was a kid my dad passed away and my mom needed to go find a job. We'd had the money for her to not work for a while but at one point it was just the two of us and something in the house broke. We had to trade my dad's small boat (which lived under our front porch) to have the repairs done. I remember being scared but we were very lucky, good friends of my father helped her get a job at his old company where she was very successful. I've always remembered that scary time and believed that everything possible should be done to enable women to be self-supporting, to earn a good living for themselves and their children. The Women's Initiative for Self-Employment supports women so they can be self supporting and self sufficient. It's a good cause and I encourage you to let women you know who own their businesses to submit for these great awards.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seminar at Google on Google Tools

Life has gotten really hectic with everything converging on the end of this month. But last week I had the chance to take a day and spend it in a Google workshop on Google tools along with about 100-140 other Non Profit Marketing people. The crowd was extremely diverse and I had a wonderful time connecting with people at very different organizations. The best part was getting to learn from all of them about their organizations and what they're passionate about.

I got to meet the guy who is running Save the Frogs and learned that over 100 species of Amphibians have become extinct since 1980 and before that we were only losing about one species every 250 years. We all talked about how he can optimize his site - you should check it out for the awesome frog pictures and to learn how we can all save the frogs.

I met a wonderful woman who runs the website She had a great way of introducing herself - she is first non profit leader I've ever met who actually achieved her mission - she got a bill passed that forced car manufacturers to put release levers on the inside of car trunks. She's amazing and has moved on to do more great work to help save children.

I had a wonderful chat with a gentleman from NPR (of course I'm a huge fan) who talked with me about the difficulty of organizing vast quantities of information on a website.

What was fascinating was meeting so many different people all of whom believe passionately in their work and were equally interested in what I was doing. That day brought me back to work with a renewed interest in helping change the part of the world I can impact and also reminded me to spend a bit more time helping out with other organizations. More on that tomorrow.