For the love of basketball

I have decided to join the Chelsea Recreation Center.

CRC

It’s right around the corner from our apartment, and for $150/year it has everything I need:

CRC Pool

CRC weights

But mainly

CRC BB court

Two days ago I went in for the first time.

I checked out a basketball from the office (the best basketball I have played with in my long career), and went straight to the court.

There were around a dozen kids (18 year olds, high school seniors) playing around. I started shooting some free throws. It was the first time I stepped on a court since my career at the pros in Spain ended on its third day of pre-season, after several surgeries, 20 years ago.

I was definitely rusty, but I could still hit the net.

The kids around me noticed, and soon enough asked me if I wanted to play with them. What a weird feeling. Again on a court, again the only white person playing… but this time they were over two decades younger than me! Although some things never change: the first muscle they move, in every play, is their mouth.

I should have denied the invitation. After all, I am not supposed to run and jump, only swim, ride the bicycle and lift weights. But… what the heck. I missed it too much to reject it.

I had a blast. But the one thing I enjoyed the most, the one thing I had almost forgotten, is the most precious of all and the reason why I miss it so much: the love on the court. We were all playing, collaborating, “dancing”, sharing, enjoying. There was real love. No need for referees, for scores, for a coach, even for rules. We were there for the love of basketball.

The best part of it all? Two days later and I am not feeling any pain or sore muscle. So guess who will be becoming a regular on that court ūüėČ

The key to the use of cloud in healthcare

In a single word: security.

By now there is no doubt about the advantages of the cloud: easy collaboration, scalability, ubiquity, sync, cost savings (21% on average, according to AFCOM 2011, 40% according to our own customers), rapid deployment, etc.

There is also no doubt about the need for a move to the cloud in healthcare: according to Enterprise Strategy Group, by 2015 an average of 665TB of data will be generated per hospital per year. And the number one reason for that data size is PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) medical imaging systems. Furthermore, as digital pathology and genetic (-omics) data, which are only now becoming common place, start to grow, that number could easily be multiplied by two or three. We already have customers that generate over a PETABYTE (1,000 terabytes, or a quadrillion bytes) of data per year.

Our solutions help store and manage all that data. But with over 425,000 telehealth providers in the USA alone (according to BCC research), that data increasingly needs to be shared. Yet not all hospitals have the capability or resources to do it. So the cloud is the perfect solution.

With constantly falling telecommunications prices and increasing bandwidth, study after study and poll after poll show that the number one factor restricting the adoption of the cloud in healthcare is ‚Äúsecurity‚ÄĚ.

HIPPA requirements and the very sensitive and confidential nature of healthcare data are the first reasons that come to mind. But recent news about the National Security Agency spying on citizens without court orders, even through backdoors on privative operating systems with consent and even help of software and telecoms companies, have escalated the fear for data security breaches even more.

How should the concerns about data security be addressed? Again, one single word: transparency.

The cloud is no more or less secure than your cell phone, your computer, your operating system or your applications. The more we seek ease of use, speed, and convenience, the more we go up the abstraction layers, separating ourselves from the deep knowledge of the inner workings of the tools we use everyday.

If we want complete control and security, we have to have knowledge of the building blocks (operating system kernel, electronics, etc). But who has time for that?

The only solution to overcome fear is trust. And the only way to trust with security is through knowledge. But knowledge is only possible when there is transparency.

So request your cloud providers to be transparent about their systems, policies, protocols, formats, etc. Also make sure updated free-open source software is used end to end. And add as many additional layers as possible while maintaining manageability (encryption, auditing, logging, etc).

And this is how the movie industry chokes itself

On May 13th, on my way to a friend’s apartment, we stumbled upon the set of Ben Stiller’s new movie right outside the 125th St. subway exit. They were filming in the middle of the street. What struck me the most was that one of the fa√ßades of the building had been completely redone (cast, cement, wood, paint… it looked absolutely real and solid) for the film.

Really? No building façade will do? They had to build a complete new one?

That is exactly what is wrong with the film industry. It’s an industry. Mr. Stiller is a star, and he does not have time to move around. Efficiency over cost. It doesn’t matter how much it costs, it must be done this way, on this day. The contract. The producers. Promotion. Deadlines…

Of course movies end up costing millions of dollars. And they could cost billions if there was such a return.

It’s a formula. An industry. Predictable (or so they like to think and try) returns. Which needs predictable environments. No unions. No imagination. No technology innovations. No criticism. No tendencies. No art. No nothing but block buster after block buster.¬†

Have you noticed how some “friends” make movie after movie together? Do you think it is because they have “chemistry”?

Then these people meet and splurge and demand that they be “defended” because they “create jobs”. Just like any criminal organization, or political party, or ¬†any other group involved in monetary exchange.

We have to suffer copyright and DRM restrictions on our rights and access to culture so they can create mostly trash and force illegal distribution budling deals. We have to suffer fallacious ads in the subway saying “Film production generates $400 million in tax revenues for NY, with equals to the salary of thousands of firefighters” while they hide the fact that the film industry received $420 million tax “incentives” in New York.

And that is how the industry chokes (itself). Concentrating on money, revenue and return, and demanding “protection”, instead of offering innovation, access and quality.

After hurricane Sandy in New York

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From tilted posts to trees completely gone, after hurricane Sandy there were many signs of destruction around New York.

I had to stay at Stepahnie’s apartment (thank you again!) until Monday, because my building remained without power. And even after the power returned, the telephone and internet took two more days.

Some people were not so lucky, with all hotels fully booked, and had to stay at home for days without power or water. I heard of a woman who paid over $400 for a night in a room at the Gramercy Hotel, even though they did not have power or water either, just because she was too sacred of being at home alone for so long without electricity.

So, when Stephanie went to her office, I also went to work: to help others by helping handing out food and water in one of the “soup kitchens” (the one at 27th street). Signs of reconstruction were everywhere. And that’s when the real “American Spirit” shines its brightest light (not with flags or elections): when everybody comes together, in a fairly self-organized way, to wholeheartedly help.

[Note: images on this post, except those of the gallery above, have not been taken, or downloaded, or hosted by me; for full attribution follow the source]

Many people tried to help as they could. From great efforts, to little gestures. It all helped.

And just when things seemed to slowly be returning more or less back to normal, winter storm Athena reminded us that it can always get worse, and “Winter is coming”. Thousands of flights cancelled again, snow everywhere… pretty but cold!

Instead of Halloween party

I’m still stuck in Baltimore, but it seems I will be able to return to NY late tonight, arriving tomorrow morning afternoon, the day after Halloween (which reaches amazing levels, like Barbie special edition dolls).

So, instead of going to the Village Halloween parade (which has been cancelled for the first time in 39 years), or any of the Halloween parties I was invited to (the New Museum and Cara’s parties have also been cancelled), and wear the cool and simple MineCraft Creeper costume Cory Doctorow twitted (from Comic Con NY):

I will choose one of the volunteer efforts to aid those most affected by Hurricane Sandy and get to work helping those in need… after some much needed sleep and a shower, of course.

The Norse vs Inuit approach

The Norse vs Inuit approach

There are many seemingly “small events” in history to which we do not pay much attention, when actually they provide very important lessons. I always talk about historical examples of perfectly successful cooperatives and anarchist self government. But this time I want to comment on a very different historical event: the Norse attempt to colonize Greenland.

When the Norse tried to colonize Greenland, the Inuit already lived there. They did not fight. There was enough space for everyone. But they had very different societal structures. The Inuit were natives, living in small groups, usually just one family, migratory (like the seals) and hunting seals individually, using kayaks and harpoons.

The Norse, coming from (somehow) less extreme conditions, were communal settlers, hunting in groups.

What is very interesting is the Norse arrogance. They were Medieval Christians, quite superstitious, but also with the false belief that God was on their side, and the Inuits were just primitive savages (skraelings as they called them). So even though the Inuits had been living-surviving there for very long, the Norse did not even try to learn anything from the Inuit. And that led them to absolute failure.

Have we learned anything? It seems that over 600 years later, we haven’t.

The longest war in US history

Afghanistan already is the longest (official) war in US history.

In order to begin to understand that mess, as usual in modern history, we may have to go back to the end of World War II, when Pakistan’s colonial nominees, the “Taliban”, were sent to take over Afghanistan to give them a strategic edge over India in the war over Kashmir.

Today the Taliban and Pakistan’s ISI (Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence) alliance are at the heart of why the USA is stuck in an endless war: the USA aligns, or so it would seem, much more with India in terms of values, policy, economy, etc, than with Pakistan. But in order to fight the Taliban, the USA took Pakistan as their allies, alienating India, heating the Kashmir conflict, and aiding and legitimizing Pakistan’s military and ISI‚Ķ which in turn ends up helping their “enemy”.

Typical of USA military-intelligence (oh, the irony) one sided mind, narrow vision, treacherous, lying and forceful approach, they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

The debate at the CUNY Graduate Center in NY last year between Christopher Hitchens, George Packer, and Peter Beinart made it quite clear.

Yet, the real war is at home. As Packer brilliantly noted: with our society and economy in unquestionable decline, it makes no sense to try to maintain power abroad when national infrastructures, education levels, healthcare, and even political discourse have never been so low.

High culture might will numb you, how stay true? On "Graffiti" screening and panel at New Museum

On Thursday I was invited to the New Musuem for the screening of “Graffiti – PostGraffiti” documentary and panel discussion.

Your usual suspects were there. Besides the panelist (Pattie Astor, Fab Five Freddy, Lady Pink, and Lee Quinones), there were many old glories and a couple of aspiring bomber kids in the audience that I am sure were tagging walls late that night.

What started as a celebration, a remembrance, and a comunion, as the liturgy advanced ended up becoming a hurtful vindication and even a flat out purist attack. And that is exactly how “high culture” (market and marketing, generating artificial scarcity) assimilates art and expression forms.

It was beautilful to hear from the very people that were there and made it happen how the ’77 NY BlackOut allowed kids to “borrow” musical equipment that they would not have had access to any other way, which in turn sparked a wave of wild and pure self expression from kids that did not have the influence of traditional art education, which led to rap/hip-hop, break dance, and graffiti. It was empowerment from an accidental redistribution of artistic production means. Forced expression socialism.

The voyage went throught the highs (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura2000, Keith Haring…) and lows (the LA show, threats, stigmatization…). It could have ended there if those were scholars talking about art history. But they were not. They were the alive and active protagonist of a movement that is very present today. It was a great opportunity to talk about the present and future after the past had been cheerfully celebrated with endogamic enthusiasm.

So I asked Freddy, Lee and Lady Pink about their opinion about it. “How graffiti, street-art, posters, stickers, stencils, LED throwies, etc incluence one another, and where is it going?”

Pattie took the microphone with her worn-out trucker voice and started ranting about how Graffiti was a style, a movement, that had nothig to do with stencils, posters, and all that. She explained how those sitting there were all Post-Graffiti Artist (I heard her capitalize the “A”, which sent goosebumps down my spine) with studios, not “street-artist” (again a chilling reaction to her despective tone).

Jumping on her angry bandwagon the rest affirmed her views. “It has been many years since I painted on a wall”, “I have a studio, I exhibit around the world, my paintings are in many museums”… It was SO sad to see them react. Still feeling the pain, still feeling they needed to defend themselves and their expression means from others (even though that same panel met at that same museum in ’98, ’02, and ’04). That was understandable. What was unbereable was to see how The System, embodied by The Art World, had yet again, once more, engulfed and prevailed, not just assimilating art, expression, freedom, rebellion, and spontaneity, but also being assimilated by those very same people that once laughed at it.

And they fell with full force, with enclosing reductionist force. Up to the point that when Banksy was mentioned, Lee said “sorry Banksy, we beat you to it”.¬†

So, heroes of the past, I salute you for your bravery and contribution of the past. But that does not earn my respect for the present, nor my enthusiasm for the future. I’ll keep on looking, and more convinced than ever that the energy of the present and the light of the future might be anywhere, come from anywhere, but definitely not a Museum.

PS: I do take a wonderful inspiration from the event, and some recent conversations and messages I’ve had to endure. Finally an art definition that leaves me satisfied. Mine. To me:

Art is a unidirectional expression of reality

[Update: check out this great infographic about the origins of Street Art]

It's October and all I want is you

Lying on the carpet, poetry book and pencil in hand, U2 in the background.

October

October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care

October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on…and on…

So many literal meanings: the fear of wearing-out (The Edge was considering leaving the band like his brother did before they were even called U2), the false sense of security arising from self-defeat (“What do I care”), moving on after a loss (both Bono and Larry had just lost their mothers), the high hopes and expectations arising from new democracies in Eastern Europe only to become despair and dissapointment, and eventually resilience, surviving, going on…

Add that to the fact that Bono’s suitcase with the complete lyrics were stolen, he could only remember these lines, and decided to leave it like this, which is in fact quite poetic and coherently illustrative.

And then the personal meanings. This song speaks to me, with its haunting piano (the one song that motivated me to learn a little bit of piano when I was a kid), as I am sure it speaks to you. Today. In October. My October.

Of course, what song comes next?

‘All I want is you’

Searching for Sugar Man

Last Sunday I went to see Searching for Sugar Man bio/docu/pic at Lincoln Plaza Theaters.

Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock ‘n’ roller, Rodriguez.

While the movie is a very good one, and the story quite powerful (not only a human story about an incredible musician called Rodriguez, better than Bob Dylan if you allow me the heresy), there are two aspects that go well beyond the typical in this kind of documentary:

  • The human quality of an incredible person called¬†Sixto Diaz Rodriguez. A zen quality.
  • How completely screwed up the “recording industry” is, and yet how music, art, hope, and determination can really conquer it all. Because whomever thinks it is about the money, should really see this… and cry!

Do yourself a favor: go see it, bring your friends, talk about it, buy the records, go to the concerts…