Tag Archives: Live Talks LA

My personal year-in-review (is less about me than others)

photoAs so many of us are contemplating what we want out of the new year that’s dawning, I found myself making a list of what I managed to get accomplished over the last year, which happened to be my 50th.

While I didn’t do anything that by conventional standards was notable or headline-worthy (no bestsellers, no blockbuster deals, no gorgeous bouncing babies, house purchases, etc.) I was happy to see, in review, that it’s been productive–and more importantly, productive in a way that helps other people, my own personal mandate.

(Note: Only one of the things on this list involves making money.  Also note: This list is not in any particular order.)

Women of the DWC bake for their coffeeshop

Women of the DWC bake for their coffeeshop

1. The cooking group I lead at the Downtown Women’s Center (for women in need) helped them win a $25k grant from the Halo Foundation. We can’t solve homelessness by making dinner for people in need, but we can feel a part of our community and provide a healthy meal for those who don’t have access to what most of us take for granted.  Even better that we stoked their coffers, too.

2. I researched and spearheaded a movement that led to a rent abatement for over 100 of our neighbors due to the loss of our beloved swimming pool and other services here on my beloved Bunker Hill.  (I also managed to keep swimming, elsewhere.)

3. Working with another neighbor, we managed to clean up a deteriorating area of our community and involve/alert local officials, as well as draw media attention to the problem.

4. I’ve been working with Bhutanese refugees to help them with their all-volunteer media service that chronicles their resettlement around the world, a fascinating experience for me and important work for them.  Very interesting counterpoint to what I encountered while in Bhutan volunteering at a radio station there.

Academy of our Lady of Peace goes to Bhutan

Academy of our Lady of Peace examines Shangri-La

5. Of all the interesting places where I am fortunate to be asked to talk about the themes in my book, Radio Shangri-La, an all-girls Catholic school in San Diego and a gathering of hundreds of youth at the Kroc Peace Center were two highlights.  Love talking to kids.

6. I interviewed Deepak Chopra and his brother Dr. Sanjiv in front of 500 people at an Episcopalian church.

7. I interviewed Michaela Haas, the author of a compelling book about female Buddhist spiritual leaders, at a meditation center.

Vince at the gleaming Marlins stadium

Vince at the gleaming Marlins stadium

8. Along with my brother and boyfriend, we wrangled my parents and elderly aunt to a baseball game (a dream of theirs to see the new stadium in Miami.)  Later in the summer, we corralled my boyfriend’s infirm mother for a fun outing that involved ice cream and “freaking unbelievable hamburgers.”  Seeing her laugh was worth the entire trip.

9. I’ve read a lot, lot, lot, partially for my research on my Joan Kroc book but partially just because, which makes me happy especially when I hear people complain they don’t have time to read; I feel lucky that I do make time for this.

10. My part-time paying job, at KCRW, allows me to meet and talk with incredibly interesting people doing incredibly interesting things, usually having to do with art, usually mostly underfunded and otherwise unpublicized. Being able to share those conversations with the radio-listening and Web-viewing public is an honor and a delight.  It’s a rewarding (to me) application of my media background–which I resolved to put to better use after my book sold and allowed me to “retire” from daily news back in 2008.

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What it’s like to a be a seriously famous author (Or, my night with Neil Gaiman)

ImageI’ve just had a glimpse of the most incredible rock star writer: Neil Gaiman signing probably 2000 books in the hands of some 1400 people till 2:40am.  After talking on stage to the assembled crowd for an hour and a half before that.

Perhaps more incredibly, many of those 1400 people patiently (for the most part) waited for hours in a hot theater.  Most of them immersed in the pages of Gaiman’s new book, the reason he’s on the road, The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which just debuted on the NY Times bestseller list at #1.  Of course.)

I’ve been in the orbit of Stephen King when people chase him down the street.  Seen the mobs form around Matt Groening, while he kindly signed every last book or piece of paper put in front of him, without evident fear of being squished.  A couple years ago, I helped 6500 people file through a line that snaked through several levels of the Nokia Theater to get two seconds in front of, and a signature from, Tina Fey.

Just a few weeks ago, 1400 people jammed the same theater to see Phil Jackson.  They were into it, Lakers gear and all, but it didn’t feel….religious.  Sacred.


Row by row, they approached the stage.

“You don’t think we’re all here just cause this guy wrote a couple books that got made into movies and TV shows, do you?” explained one fan as I helped her flap the books to the correct pages in order to keep the assembly line going.  (There were at least 8 other people involved in this carefully orchestrated operation, including someone whose job it was to hand Gaiman the correct pen for the item at hand.  Collection of Sandman comics?  The silver sharpie.  The new book?  A fountain pen.  And so on.)

Me, I had absolutely no idea who Neil Gaiman was until my boyfriend told me he was going to be doing this event for his speaker series, Live Talks LA.  (“You’re not the demographic,” one goth staffer at the theater sniffed at me, but, while there was a detectable geek-goth look evident, I was impressed by the diverse age and racial makeup of the crowd.)

Image“The most famous writer you’ve never heard of,” he told me.

Not anymore.  I studied up on Gaiman’s backstory, guiltily read a precious signed galley of this coveted book before the fans, and proceeded to wear exactly the wrong shoes to stand in for 10-plus hours–even though Ted warned me we’d be there late.

The fact that rock star writer Gaiman is married to an actual rock star, Amanda Palmer, adds to the mystique.  The two live on Twitter, where any schmo can read along as they correspond with each other, Neil’s grown kids and an assorted cast of characters as well as fans.

Right now, Amanda’s on tour herself, and she sent along several hundred CDs of a band she just produced, to be handed out as freebies.

“Amanda sent these for you,” I told people, as we gave handed them out to the crowds, as if Amanda had personally phoned me up and shipped em to me.


Pre-show book-signing in the green room. People waited in line to get the signature face to face, rather than trading in for one of these so they could leave early.

What makes someone so famous that people are willing to drive for hours, sit in the baking heat outdoors to get inside a venue, sit for hours waiting to have a chance to drop off home-baked cookies, show off their Gaiman-inspired tattoos, and get a signature or two? Clearly, attentiveness to one’s fans is a factor.  He’s so hot, he doesn’t have to minister to his fans.

Perhaps the even more interesting and unanswerable question is: How do you get to be that famous in the first place?  It doesn’t hurt to write stuff that’s good, time and again.  And surely it helps to look as many of them in the eye, let them wax poetic, and respond, “Thanks.”


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Playlist for LiveTalksLA event with Colum McCann and his new book, Transatlantic


For Live Talks LA, the speaker series my boyfriend produces, I’ve taken to compiling playlists of music to fill the venue before the event.  

ImageFor tonight’s author, whose latest book spans not just continents but eras, this was a fun challenge–one made easier by references to various songs throughout the book.

Here’s what you’ll hear if you come to the William Turner gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica tonight…before you hear red-hot author Colum McCann being quizzed by the LA Times’ literary goddess Carolyn Kellogg.

Harlem Rag by Donna Coleman

We Shall Overcome by The Boys Choir of Harlem

Ireland by Bela Fleck

Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick

Frederick Douglass by Flo, El Guapo and Big Mello

John Harmann/Rule Brittania by Metropolitan Wind Symphony

Let the Great World Spin by Joe Hurley

Lorena by Blaine Sprouse

Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin

Transatlantic by Bleu Screen

Transatlantic by Quantic


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Sheryl WuDunn on women, Pico Iyer on quiet, Karma and compassion in Beverly Hills

Couple events coming up:

Tonight, I have the honor of interviewing Pulitzer-prize winning writer Sheryl WuDunn about her book HALF THE SKY at the glorious Skirball.

On Monday, I’ll be speaking about Bhutan at All Saint’s Church in Beverly Hills as part of the “year of compassion” series-and my friend Karma Dem will be serving up fusion Bhutanese food.

And next Thursday, the celebrated writer Pico Iyer will be at UCLA’s Fowler Museum with me, discussing the joy of quiet and retreats.  (Maybe we’ll even have a moment of silence.)

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@EricRies on The #LeanStartup: Next Thursday in Downtown #LosAngeles:

Tickets at: http://business.livetalksla.org/2011/08/17/eric-ries/

Eric Ries, Co-founder, IMVU
Creator of the Lean Startup Methodology

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Thursday, September 15, 2011
7:45am Continental Breakfast
8:15-9:15am Forum

Tickets $20, $35 includes Ries’ book

The City Club on Bunker Hill
333. S. Grand Avenue, 54th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Eric Ries is the creator of the Lean Startup methodology and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. He previously co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech and in 2009 he was honored with a TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups, and has worked as a consultant to a number of startups, companies, and venture capital firms. In 2010, he became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School.

Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever. Read his blog, Lessons Learned and and here to learn more about The Lean Start Up.

“Business is too important to be left to luck. Eric reveals the rigorous process that trumps luck in the invention of new products and new businesses. We’ve made this a centerpiece of how teams work in my company . . . it works! This book is the guided tour of the key innovative practices used inside Google, Toyota, and Facebook, that work in any business.” Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Intuit

“In business, a ‘lean’ enterprise is sustainable efficiency in action. Eric Ries’ revolutionary Lean Startup method will help bring your new business idea to an end result that is successful and sustainable. You’ll find innovative steps and strategies for creating and managing your own startup while learning from the real-life successes and collapses of others. This book is a must read for entrepreneurs who are truly ready to start something great!” —Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and The One Minute Entrepreneur

Purchase Tickets:
$20 Forum and Breakfast$35 also includes Eric Ries’ book

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@liveTalksLA #Business

Also announced this week, this raft of morning talks with a more business-y bent. Jeff Jarvis, Lawrence Lessig, Jennifer Granholm, Daniel Kahneman, and more.

Up first: Future of newspapers on September 8th.


Don’t forget the night series:

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Just released: @liveTalksLA fall schedule: @gleeonfox, adam gopnik, hal holbrook, @steveinskeep, so much more

This line-up will make you wish you’re in LA (if you’re not,) from Glee’s Jane Lynch, New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, NPR’s Steve Inskeep, as well as Dave Barry, Hal Holbrook, John Lithgow and much more, just announced at www.livetalksla.org

Be sure to check out the business program, too.

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