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.”



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?



Money is the New Religion, Irrelevant

This post clearly needs more work.  I wanted to get the draft concept out as I’m finding the debunking of these ideas difficult during in-person conversations and debates.  I’m more of a conversationalist than a writer or researcher. This is currently one of my favorite conversations.  Take it as such.


At one point, religion made the world go ’round. It still does for many individuals and regions of the world. Money has since layered on top (and, of course, mixed in with) religion as the global economy has been connected, well, globally. What if money wasn’t worth anything but a luxury?

Religions stepped in gave man a guide on how to live by sharing guides of principles and values. While religion may have served a great purpose, one no longer needs (and may have never have needed) a structured way to become a decent human being. A global economy based on currency has led us to this point in technology.  Over the past few centuries money has trumped religion in so many ways causing man to chase the almighty dollar over being a decent human being (example: advertising for unhealthy products). Of course, this plays out more in the Western world, but the two coexist and battle each other on individual, familial, national and global levels. They both have played critical parts for the development of mankind and served a great purpose for individuals and society alike. But let’s face it, neither religion nor money have nailed it.  We’ve made some great advancement s and achievements, but we won’t advance without shaking close-minded religious practices or economical desires. Something else is next and it is arriving sooner than we think.

As technology turns scarce resources into abundant ones, what will be the value of money?

Information: Not too long ago, only the very wealthy had access to education and information. We know this transformation is already here and growing exponentially. However, there’s still a great digital divide. That divide won’t last. The relatively enormous amount of data that we produce and learn how to act on will lead to technological advances in energy, food and water.
Energy: We’re currently underutilizing so many natural energy resources, particularly the sun, due to the “economical” procedures that hold us back.
Food: Imagine skyscrapers…of farms.  Flying robots that maintain, harvest and deliver more than enough (completely organic) food for the global population (which rate happens to lower with the increase of access to education.
Water: How long until we figure out how to turn salt water into drinking water? (more)

What’s left? Housing perhaps. But say that we soon cut the travel time from New York to Sydney to about 10 minutes and for little cost? Where do you want to be? Places that are not attractive to a lack of resources, food, etc. will soon be hard to find.

Health? We’ve already doubled life expectancy in a century, but have gone down in regards to increase of industrial-style food consumption.  Access to information internally (maybe tiny robots that swim in our bodies and report all health signs? Sign me up. Fitbit already going there) and a reduction of ignorance to what we’re eating will lead to the organic skyscraper farms over the corn-made ones of today.

(separate, linked post?) A rapidly increasing transparent society helps not only with creating the abundance information, but dramatically decreases human corruption. It won’t be too long before we have an eye contact that serves our mobile device (yes, Terminator-like) that records and streams publicly most of what we view and displays augmented reality. These conversations that we have in person will be recorded, tagged and available for anyone to watch (if we flick the green button on) either live or in the distant future. Any forthcoming politician will not get into office (the current government system has again served a purpose, but is antiquated already compared to technology available in 2012) without running being completely transparent as society reflects. This won’t happen overnight, but we’re currently progressing that way in an embedded in accessing the above mentioned resources. It’s not Big Brother, it’s Older Brother when everyone has access to the transparent information instead of one central government.  (Twitter and YouTube are scratching the surface and currently hold great value and potential for this openness. Facebook  is desperately trying to be the open platform, but perceived privacy issues are holding it back. )

(Related: Destroying patents, trademarks,  copyrights and intellectual property leftover over from the 20th century for a smarter planet.)

Some tell me that I’m explaining a “Utopia” that can not exist. I think “Utopia” is a relative term and someone from the 1800s would believe 2012 is Utopia. Our challenges will be greater and life will continue to be a struggle … relatively speaking.

What’s next? Does there need to be something at all? Will we be forced to expedite this process from a global threat from outside one caused by man?


Again, this is a draft. I’ve been having debates over the above for the last few years and needed to get it out there for potentially finding a larger audience that can find more flaws than the limited in-person conversations that are (currently) possible.  If you somehow stumbled upon this, thanks for reading. Feel free to add your thoughts, express holes in my theories or just call me ludicrous.

Stop Saying “Silicon Valley of the _______”

I move and travel quite a bit. In different areas of the USA and the world, I continuously hear, “We are the the Silicon Valley of (the North, India, the Midwest, Africa, the mountains, Idaho, prison system, yadda yadda)” or some regionalized variation of Silicon Valley such as “Silicon Alley” or “Silicon Forrest”. Stop.

Like Mitch Hedberg said about turkey:

There’s turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami — someone needs to tell the turkey, ‘man, just be yourself’.

I was at event tonight where FutureNYC’s Jonathan Bowles was talking about their report (excellent, by the way) and they we’re proud to say “We’re #2!”. NYC, along with other metropolitan areas, has the chance to completely alter and improve urban conditions throughout our planet. The tech in Silicon Valley is laying a serious foundation which we will all be a part of, but each type of region will create amazing technological advance that only can made in their respective region and/or circumstance.

One of my favorite quotes from the event was by Andrew Rasiej – “Technology is not a slice of the pie, it’s the pan.”

We’re in a transitional period and it is up to each city/region to maximize technology to better embed human society as an asset into the earth instead of a parasite of it. The ways Detroit (used to be #1 at something) will utilize technology will help other cities greatly damaged by 20th century industrialization. Only a city like Detroit can accomplish such.

VC money, acquisitions and currency in general don’t exist in a truly post-industrial society. Global advancements will certainly occur, but no one will care where they come from.

The whole world is just as excited as you and will also be playing their part.

Be yourself, everybody.

Don’t Worry About China

I often hear in conversation how China is on pace to become the most powerful country in X amount of years. This may be true, but the path that we’ve been on as humans for the last few centuries is getting dramatically skewed. That pace leads to industrial society that no longer exists as move towards a truly global society, most likely without political countries as we know them. The connotation of the term “economy” will alter dramatically as we reshape human society on earth.

Government 2.0 = A New Startup

I just read a piece by Tim Conners that asks for a Gov 2.0 app. Overall it’s a phenomenal idea but the  features are rather short-sighted in my honest opinion. By that, I mean it would be phenomenal tool today, but makes no sense for the real “Governement 2.0” that will shortly be ready for tomorrow.

Frankly, any system/company/organization/person that sucks will fail as full transparency is taking over. We know this happening in the commercial world as we continue to see startups take over huge companies and industries (Netflix/Blockbuster, Pandora/radio Skype/phone). See Wikileaks, Mubarak.

Gov 2.0 = A New Startup

Imagine if Egypt came up with a new system that combined the best of communism but with zero government and laid a gamificattion model on top for incentive. Every citizen has a version of Tim’s app and they quickly the Egyptians build a phenomenal infrastructure and quality of life that (see Robert Kennedy’s quote on GNP) that is unparalleled throughout the world. Soon, neighboring countries Libya and Sudan emulate this and find the same success. It makes sense for Egypt, Libya and Sudan to combine the region since their is no power to be lost or gained, just more minds to extract creativity to tackle their regions challenges. The rest of the world soon catches on and develops their regions own version a new government. This eventually leads to world without and countries and government completely controlled by the people, segmented by geographical region.

First though, we need to be connected by our devices before we can connect mentally. Facebook and Twitter are doing this now, but only to a certain extent. We need an app like Tim’s to do so but without the archaic government systems of today preloaded in them.

“Imagine there’s no country. It’s easy if you try.” – John Lennon

Obviously this all hypothetical and Egypt may succumb to another bad regime in government, but either way, sooner or later, a new startup of a government system is going to knock out the current giants of capitalism and government-led communism.

The Birth (and death) of VoterVision

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Check out Startup Weekend in your city.

Here is a much more detailed post that shows you what Startup Weekend is about.

Thanks for watching – Mike

Lorin Halpert and Sohail Somani Working Hard at #swtoronto


December 10th, 2010

Many say only one in nine startups are successful, so get your eight failures out of the way soon as possible.   The idea of VoterVision still lives on, but we were unable to secure any government funding. I think the deeper concepts and overall vision will happen (not explained in the video above), just from those with a greater foothold in the government industry.  I saw the video below on Facebook from my former colleague, Gia Lyons.  Jive can accomplish these things and I am sure they will naturally progress as governments implement such software.  We wanted:

A place where you can gather information on EVERY candidate, not just those with the most marketing dollars.

A place where candidates are  rewarded for engaging with the community online through video, audio and text.

A simple match-finding tool for those who don’t have time to put in the research.  This would be great for those smaller elections that many of us just vote for the last name we like best.

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I am confident companies like Jive will lead the way and the old way of politics will naturally subside giving us true democratic elections with an equal voice for all who deserve it.

Toronto Mayoral Election – Livecasting


My TwitPic

Recently I was invited by Michael Edwards to come down to the Rocco Rossi Campaign Headquarters and view a live Ustream broadcast.  I’ve been very curious on social media’s impact in politics and I wanted to see how the Rossi campaign folks ran the Ustream operation.  There was a host, Justin Kozuch, who fielded questions from the Twitter using their hashtag #roccolive.  He used his iPad and shot them ofter to the mayoral candidate.  Rocco had no problems taking the questions and seemed very comfortable in all his answers.  Most shot at him were about the traffic congestion…something I’ve personally experienced greatly in short few weeks in Toronto.  I thought this is a great way to connect to potential voters by allowing Rossi to take almost any question and answer in an ad-hoc fashion.

According to the Rossi camp, Rocco is the only candidate in Toronto livecasting.

What would you ask your potential mayor?  What are some cool things that you’ve seen candidates do in social media in your area?

Here my quick interview with Justin Kozuch

Here is the broadcast in full, you can also find it on their site here.

Is the Playing Field Really Level?

Gary Vaynerchuk says the playing field is level with the rising use of social media, and I agree…for those of us on the playing field.  I often say stress to people the same concept of “there are no gate keepers anymore”.  But lately, I’ve been running into folks who have a valid point: “we can’t afford the internet”.  My thoughts are always on how they will be left behind.  (I also think the Chinese government is depriving their citizens of information with their closed intranet, but that’s another discussion).  What are some possible solutions to get EVERYBODY on the field?  Do you have any examples of a demographic or population that is OFF the field?

Apparently, CU is attempting to solve this issue in developing countries by creating a graduate program.  I’m definitely interested as is Cali Harris who coincidentally posted about it on Facebook.

Here are some graphs showing internet usage around the globe.

I’d like to hear from teachers that teach in low-income areas.  Here’s an article from Cornell University that’s a bit dated (2008) but suggests that people below ‘digital divide’ would use the Internet more if they had it.

Thanks for reading and/or watching – Mike

Is Facebook like Elvis and “Caught in a Trap”?

Facebook, you I love what you are doing, but I’m not sure the public agrees with me or you. Just today I came across three articles participating in the war against Facebook’s privacy issues.

First, Tom Chikoore shared this article showing an instant message conversation of Zuck in college that included this text:

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend’s Name]: What? How’d you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don’t know why.

Zuck: They “trust me”

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

I find it a little fishy and am not buying into myself…that doesn’t mean most people will find it appalling and some Facebookers will flee.

The second was from Mashable in article showing that NYU students have received funding to build the “Anti-Facebook”. Quite interesting in my opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

The third is a letter from Robert Scoble to Mark Zuckerberg explaining what he would do if he were Zucks. Scobes suggests that Zucks come over to his house for an interview. In this argument of openness and transparency, Scoble nails it…we need to see Zucks in the flesh and speaking candidly.

I’m sure there are plenty more great articles in this debate but the war against Facebook is still in its’ infancy. Again, I’d love to see Facebook and Zuckerberg prevail here but the public seems to think that:

“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds”