On Being Spike Lee’s Gentrifier

Spike Lee recently ranted about gentrification in Fort Greene and New York City. He made some good points. I felt as if here were directly talking to me. This is my response.

We moved to Fort Greene, well technically Clinton Hill (Greene & Clinton Avenues) in 2011. We hang and run in Fort Greene Park, dine on drink on Dekalb and I even started a Fort Greene history, art and hip-hop tour. I am white, educated, been making some decent coin lately and fit several of the silly “hipster” stereotypical attributes. I am the quintessential gentrifier.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like being the displaced, but I think Spike generalizes the situation and there’s more that a few things going on to cause the gentrification in Brooklyn America.

Racism and Classism:  

The scar from slavery is still fresh on America’s face. The civil rights movement was barely more than a generation ago and racial lines hardly blur when travelling to historically black neighborhoods or looking at the census.  For those who are labeling Spike a racist and saying “this is reverse racism”, try this on for size.

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The racial problem is that on the most part, we are still living divided, segregated lives. Sure all folks now legally have equal rights, but after the Emancipation Proclamation slaves were segregated without 40 acres and mule, education or wealth. The uphill battle continues as black Americans were quarantined to neighborhoods and cities and have been set up for easy incarceration. It’s not so much that individuals are racist, but that America is unabashedly historically racist and individuals flow with America’s racist patterns. This is one of those patterns.

The argument however, is that an diverse neighborhood is the promise of an ideal MLK-speech society. I joke that my wife and I are the most incestous couple in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill since we are both of European descent and most around are us are mixed-race. The income levels vary greatly with fixed-rent prices and for those folks who decided not sell their homes. I attend Brown Baptist Church in Clinton Hill occasionally and while the preacher speaks of displacement he and the crowd (predominately black) are always welcoming and speak of inclusion.  Right now, I feel as if Fort Greene/Clinton Hill is extremely diverse racially and socio-economically. Spike’s point is though, where does it end? How long before it is before it’s just another white upper-class neighborhood?  Classic gentrifier me: “It’s perfect now, let’s keep it as is.”  Spike has me there.

Another counterpoint is that gentrifiers are not necessarily white, but rather educated and well-off. My neighbor friend is black, educated and considers herself a gentrifier. She is.

Spike talks about how the trash gets picked up quicker now. I’d say that is socio-economic classism (see West Virginia town without water for 5 months) and in turn, racism. Again, collective (no pun) racism.

The Manhattanification of Brooklyn and the Re-urbanization of America

People once again WANT to live in urban environments. Crime and crack may have scared the haves from the inner cities in the 70s and 80s but now it’s convenient and livable to live within a city. Companies are now moving their HQs and major offices back to cities from the suburbs. Commuting sucks and people want convenience.  Personally we moved here because it is somewhat convenient to get to Manhattan, the diversity, the architecture and the history from Walt Whitman and the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument to Richard Wright to Biggie. Sure, the West Village crossed our minds, but if we couldn’t afford that beautiful neighborhood, we wanted something with flavor after living on of the most diverse cities in the world (Toronto) and studying at one of the most diverse universities in the country at Temple University in Philadelphia.  I’ve lived in five countries and five states across the U.S. and there’s honestly no better place to have the convenience of a major global city, a diverse population, tree-lined streets, conscious food options, blah blah blah

Ugh, maybe I’m just trying to justify being a gentrifier. What do want us to do, Spike?

More comments on Reddit thread. 

EDIT: Toronto “most diverse city” to “one of the most diverse cities.”


Walt Mossberg vs. Klout

Walt Mossberg

Let me start off by saying that I think Walt Mossberg, Tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal and co-executive editor of All Things D, is a brilliant tech journalist and I’ve admired him since I began reading the WSJ in college. This is not meant to be an against the man himself, just a conversation around the current state of journalism and word-of-mouth marketing.

Walt, and several others (like David Pogue of the New York Times), write and share for media outlets that reach a wide audience. Once in a while, I naturally stumble upon these outlet reviews within my Zite app or through Twitter or Facebook. But honestly, these journalists have to play to a wide audience and offer me very little in what I’m looking for.  I am interested in products that help me be more efficient in daily life as a 30-something tech professional who is often on the road, domestically and internationally. Sure, there may be some younger journalists at WSJ, All Things D, NY Times Bits, etc., but I organically and accidentally get my recommendations from my peers in person and on various social networks and aggregators like Zite. No publication can always be so precise.


I have never been an advocate for Klout, but they apparently they acted upon their statement in a conversation we had in 2011.

2011 Convo

Recently, Sony, via Klout, contacted me and nine others in the NYC area, to try out their new laptop, the Vaio Duo. The “perk” was that they would give us brand new Duos and fly us out, in a helicopter no less, to The Hamptons for a night. I bit. I was thinking, “I don’t know what my Klout score is but I know that it’s not high. This is something they only do for major players.” But then I started do some research and it appeared that the idea was to market this laptop to, well, professionals who travel.

Most of who were “perk’d” joked that there was someone we knew that had way more influence than we had.  Why us? As I started to get to know these other folks, I soon began to realize that we all had something in common: Travel.  Granted we all have a decent online footprint, but not massive audiences.

Frankly, I get asked by friends and family almost daily about tech products specific to their needs. “What laptop,/mobile/tablet/app/software/social network/eye apparatus/etc. should I get since I…..?”  In person, forget about it; I get my “brain picked” before I can ask about their kids, job or life. Through social networks, they know that I work in the tech industry and am often travelling around.

Our ages probably ranged from 25-40, but I can tell that all of us were that friend. Klout made it easy for Sony to find us. 

The Real Influencer?

What will determine what someone buys? Of course, it depends. While I’m sure that Sony reached out to the major media publications and the likes off Mossberg, Pogue and those from tech blogs, I think adding the combination of ads and other forms of top-down targeting along with this “middle-down”, specific approach will help get the word out about their product.

My friend, Lachlan, was visiting NYC on the Sunday I returned from The Hamptons. I told him about the trip and brought out the laptop from my overnight (I met him before going home) bag. He played around with it, looked at his wife and seriously stated, “THIS is exactly what I’ve been talking about. I need this.” It could have been a Klout AND Sony commercial.

There are 1000s out there like me and it’s now easy for the average joe to find one of us, that is looking for something very specific. I’m not saying that the tech writer is going the way of the newspaper photographer. But, I kind of am.

As for the Vaio Duo

I would NEVER have bought the Vaio. I’ve been a Mac and Google user for years and wouldn’t even consider purchasing Windows or Sony machine. This also appeared to be a trend among the others that Sony had selected.

Being a Mac fanboy since 2005, I had little expectations of working with Windows on a regular basis. The hardware has me using it daily though. It’s way too early to write a proper review on it, but I do love it so far. I keep finding myself touching the screen on my MacBook Air. I personally won’t be switching my life out of the Apple and Google ecosystems, but when friends ask about options, I now have an understanding of Sony products and a deeper knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of Windows that I can confidently bring to the table.

The Sony Vaio Hamptons Crew list on Twitter. 
The Weirdest Gift Bag I’ve Ever Gotten
by Roni Weiss, who was also on trip.

@selfishmom WFH (Working From Helicopter) on Vaio


Above The Clouds

I’m extremely impatient with technology. If we just landed on this planet, knowing what we know now, there wouldn’t be a need for automobiles that we have to drive, political borders or an economic system based on currency, blah blah blah.

However, no matter how many times I fly in an airplane, I am still in awe that we can so regularly be above the clouds. Can you imagine being one of the first humans to have such a view that was unreachable for thousands of years? I must have flown a few times as a kid because it has taken hundreds of flights to appreciate the soaring through the sky.

We talk about our kids growing up with touch screens and never appreciating the transition. We’ll continually and exponentially have so many of those first-time moments. The first AOL IM, YouTube view or @reply notification …do you remember any of those? I don’t. I’m going to try to embrace and appreciate those moments.

Now hurry up with my damn jet back and personal space flights!

(iPhone post – please pardon everything)


Related: Above The Clouds by Gangstarr: http://youtu.be/Ucvta7xDo_4


Crack and cocaine dealers are stuck with using throwaway pre-paid mobile phones. They know that having a mobile connected to their name is not safe. That channel was cut off to them a long time ago. HBO’sThe Wire, anyone?

I am not surprised nor bothered one bit by the “news” of government agencies having the ability to access our online data. In fact, I’m now beginning to believe that alls this hype around the story is a good thing. The internet and cloud technologies allow for the most advanced work efficiencies (what I do professionally) in the history of mankind and we’re only going to get more efficient. Anyone with horrible intentions will have to some other means to communicate and collaborate. Any criminal with any sense would know this already, but all this hype may cause the next group of nitwit terrorists (a la the “loser” Boston Bombers) to think twice of using such effective communication channels.

I don’t mind that certain key terms or phrases of plots surface to government agencies. Knowing how monitoring technologies work, I can say that it’s much more efficient to listening to phone calls. Using cloud and social technologies on the daily (probably hourly), I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be to organize and collaborate with like-minded individuals efficiently without this amazing toolbox that the internet provides.

Is cutting these internet channels off from those with horrible intentions (now they know nothing here is private) such a bad thing?

Now SOPA, PIPA and CISPA are WAYYY scarier than PRISM in my mind and well worth fighting against.

(Further discussed on Facebook.)


Robert Scoble’s post on Facebook:

Why is the PRISM story going to disappear within two weeks? 

30,000+ people die in cars every year in the US. We don’t care. We get into cars every day. We really don’t care about this threat. Even though the consequences are MUCH worse than anything PRISM does. The good of driving outweighs the bad of death, etc.

PRISM hasn’t killed anyone (that I know of) and possibly has saved us from harm. We really don’t care about our loss of privacy (I see it every day as I look around at everyone using grocery store loyalty cards, credit cards, and hand over a ton of data to big companies from Casinos to Hotels to social networks).

We are still headed into an Age of Context where systems are going to use our private data to see new patterns and help us live our lives and companies will use that contextual data to serve us better. And governments will continue to use them to spy on us (aka try to catch terrorists). Either way, the good far outweighs the bad. So we will continue to push into the future. This week will just be a slight speedbump.

Anyway, where were you all when cameras started appearing everywhere taking photos of people running red lights in San Francisco? 

Truth is, we give away our liberties and privacy all the time. The Golden Gate Bridge just turned on cameras that capture everyone’s license plate. Do we care? No, because now getting across the bridge is one to 15 minutes faster. 

I just can’t see the story lasting more than two weeks. 

Do you disagree? Why?



“No News Is Good News” Is a Choice

An in-law just said the old phrase, “no news is good news, right?” after I commented about a slow news day I the USA (I’m in Toronto) with it being a holiday. I suppose so if the only news that you consume is mainstream television news that thrives on selling fear and gossip stories. I love reading my news because it is filled with scientific breakthroughs, incredible citizen journalism stories, 3D-printing, travel and hip-hop blog posts and arts events coming up in Brooklyn among other posts of my interest. I use Zite, Reddit, and sometimes Twitter and Prismatic to see what’s going on. Prismatic is mostly tech stuff but Zite has gotten to know me on a much deeper level over two-plus years of feeding it my data and preferences. Reddit, who knows until I hit my dashboard.

Some of it is bad news I suppose, but I am excited with anticipation every time I hit Zite or Reddit. To me , it’s mostly great news.

Maybe it’s similar to surrounding yourself with positive people.

What kind of people news do you surround yourself with?


Posting Daily

This is one of those posts where I say that I’m going to post daily. I’m busier than ever, but I’m sure others that post every day are even busier than yours truly. I’ve got an iPhone and a WordPress app that I’m currently using that should leave me little excuse not to say something. Sure, typos and grammar mistakes aplenty, but we’re talking about practice.

I’m skeptical, but a goal is a goal and just posting this publicly should push me.

It you’re reading this post May, 2013, give me a hard time, will ya?

(Having dinner alone in an empty BK garden helps.)


1,000 Nights Out On @foursquare – Why I’m Still An Advocate

Get me in person and I’ll go over several practical uses for the service. I won’t call it a social network, although it is, it doesn’t have to be. You can use it and NEVER share any of your data with outsiders all while using recommendations from others. Based on cumulative data, foursquare’s explore has collected enough data too accurately send me to a craft beer bar in the Village, a phenomenal hoagie shop in suburban Miami or lobster stand on the cliffs of Maine 20 miles from our campground. I imagine these would be recommended to a new user as well, but they were the top recommendation based on my historical data. I RARELY have a bad meal or go to a crappy place. (my profile)

Anyway, here’s three other practical uses, including using it as a personal journal, along with my fanboy rant:

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Where I hang in NYC according to my checkins:

(create your own map at http://www.wheredoyougo.net/)

The Historical and Sentimental Value of Geo-locating Photos
foursquare fiction  
5 foursquare practical uses (from 2010)

Bonus: Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, gave me shout on Twitter after I requested a phone call.

Paid Music Service Comparison: Spotify, Rdio and Mog

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Spotify: The most users, but it with that attention it seems to be the one with the most artists pulling out or blocking (they may all be the same, but I don’t know)
Rdio: The best of the bunch for me. Make sure that you don’t pay the $15/month!
Mog: Under the radar. I like them, but the user experience needs much improvement.


Airplane Mode, Let Your Creative Mind Breathe

Prior to spending a week in Slovakia, I vowed to try disconnecting from the internet for a week while visiting. The second day, after being in an inebriated state (they fed me way too much food and way, way too much vodka) I broke down and bought a 120/MB data plan from AT&T.  My justification was that Slovakia is out of the way for most American travelers and the beauty of its people and its countryside (post on this coming) should be shared, thus reducing the ignorance of this little-known country. Hypothetically, I would not be checking work emails or “breaking” news.

Although I purchased the plan, I still did well for a while not connecting and only occasionally taking photos. I felt the creative side of my mind breathing and growing. In idleness, I’d contemplate a subject going deeper than “I’ve had time for” in a very long time. I reintroduced myself to myself, not having spent time alone (I’m often solo, but rarely “alone” if connected) in as long as I can remember.

Often, I wanted to jot down some ideas and opened Evernote to record them. That airplane icon often tempted me to turn it off.  The moment I did turn my iPhone off of airplane mode, my creative side became completely suffocated. I began thinking in very short bursts, conquering red notifications one by one.  As our trip got nearer to the end my data plan still had plenty of MBs left and I used them increasingly and rapidly after leaving the countryside while visiting Prague and Amsterdam between connecting flights home. By the time we boarded the plane for NYC, I had difficulty going back to those deep explorations of the mind and reflective states.

For a while, I let the creative side of my brain breathe and grow, however I did not give it quite the chance to flourish. Being constantly connected has been a true blessing for me in the years of late as I’ve experienced several, varying types of further education through online media and personal online connections. The connotation of Airplane Mode has switched to being a sometimes very positive feature that should perhaps be used more often while outside of an airplane.