VIDEO: THEODORA LEE OF THEOPOLIS VINEYARDS

Theodora Lee is a lawyer & owner of Theopolis Vineyards located in Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino county Mendocino county is located right next to Sonoma, and is famous for its stunning coastline, food and wine. While  Napa and Sonoma are famous for their vineyards, neighoring county’s Anderson Valley in Mendocino has its own share of vineyards.

Theodora first discovered the wine growing region of Northern California as a young lawyer. About 10 years ago she bought a few acres of land in Yorkville Highlands and started her vineyard. She mostly grows Petite Sirah grapes.

We caught up with Theo as she prefers to be called at BiteSV conference in Santa Clara, and got to talk to her about the wines from her vineyard. In this video Theo is talking about their wine made from Symphony grape, which is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. The wine has a dry, crisp finish as she puts it.

We have a longer interview with her coming up.

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FILM NOTES: WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE

What Happened, Miss Simone by Liz Garbus is a powerful and  riveting film that will leave you in a reflective and pensive mood. In the film we see the many avatars of  this gifted & volatile singer, composser and activist, who cast her spell on us. We see “The High Priestess of Soul,” during her good times, bad times annd troubled times.

This gripping film literally bares open Simone’s soul and shows us a troubling side of this wonderfully gifted and brilliant musician. The film consists of archival footage, never- before-heard recordings and interviews. It is the interview with her daugher Lisa Simone Kelly and what she has to say about her mother that comes as a surprise. That Simone did not treat her daughter kindly is one of the things that we learn in the film.

It is the troubled and agonizing time in Simone’s life that leaves you in a refletive mood and makes you think about mental illness and how it impacts a family. In the case of Simone her mental illness was undiagnosed for many years and that combined with an abusive marriage  left deep scars on her family, especially her daugther Kelly.

Growing up Simone was training to be a classical musician and was a gifted pianist. Circumstances however put her on a different trajectory and she became a well-known jazz and soul singer. Simone applied to  Curis Institute of Music in Philadephia, but was denied admission because of her color. She ended up attending Julliard Music School and trained in classical music. To make ends meet she started performing in music clubs and changed her name from Eunice Kathleen Waymon to Nina Simone. She did not want her family, especially her mother to know that she was singing in clubs.

During the 1960s Simone became famous for her music and for her activism. She became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. From the 1970s until her death in 20013 Simone’s life takes a lot of unexpected twists and turn. She leaves her husband and the USA and goes to live in Barbados, Liberia, Switzerland and finally settles down in France, where she dies.

It is the latter half of Simone’s life, where Garbus reveals some of those extrordinary details about the singer’s life that leave you sad both for the singer and her daughter. This is a powerful film that is worth watching.

What Happened, Miss Simone is a Netflix original documentary. The film premiers tonight on Netflix.

 

VIDEO: KIRAN MALHOTRA ON VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDING & WORK LIFE BALANCE

Kiran Malhotra is Director of Venture Capital Relationships at Fenwick & West, a well-known Silicon Valley law firm. Facebook, Uber, Lending Club and GoPro are some of the companies that Fenwick & West has worked with.

In this interview we talk with Malhotra on how she went from working as a social worker in a non-profit organization to becoming the Executive Director of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) in Silicon Valley and to her current role in a well-known Silicon Valley law firm.

Malhotra explains her role as director of venture capital relationships at Fenwick & West and how she works with startups. Within the company she works with the startup practice group to main and expand their practice. Many of the early stage startup companies that come to Malhotra want VC connections and she works with them to find those connections.

Sifting through data and trends is an everyday routine for Malhotra and this helps her to keep track of the big picture of VC funding and tech trends. Naturally, we asked her to share the big picture of  venture capital funding for 2014, which was a banner year for investors and startups. Venture capitalists raised almost $30 billion in 2014. Almost $50 billion was invested in various companies. Software companies raked in the most amount of dollars followed by biotech and other sectors she explains.

Malhotra got her feet wet at TiE and working with startups and venture capitalists. The startup culture has influenced her thinking and in the next 5 years she sees herself as either launching a startup or being part of a well-funded startup.

As a single mother how does she handle her work-life balance? What tactics does she use to manage her life? She explains that it is not easy to achieve work-life balance and depends on her parents, in-laws and her former husband to raise her daughter. Without their support it would be a challenge she confesses.

This interview was aired on TV in San Francisco bay area.

 

PODCAST: NIRAJ CHAG ON CREATING MUSIC & HIS NEW ALBUM MUD DOLL

Niraj Chag

Niraj Chag

London-based Niraj Chag is an award winning  musician, composer and producer.  Chag has worked on documentaries, plays and TV shows, incuding the popular Sex And The City.

Chag released his latest album “Mud Doll,” on June 22, 2015. This is his third album. The concept for the new album is about human experience explains Chag. The album starts with birth and ends with death and embraces the full circle of life. A self-confessed geek Chag did something different with his new album.He created an interactive website that is driven by algorithms that they created. Based  on how you answer a short battery of questions, you get a personalized recommendation of music. Chag’s aim is to provide an immersive experience to his audience.

I spoke wtih Chag earlier this month about his new album and what inspired him to create it. We also spoke about his career as a musician and working with Japjit Kaur, who is often featured in his albums.

Chag was drawn to music from a very young age. He has been in bands since the age of 11, and set up his first studio when he was 15 years old. By 19 years old he signed deal with Oukast records and there has been no looking back since then for Chug.

A self-taught musician, Chag learnt music by listening to it every day. Two things are key to being a good musician he points out: a good ear and a good understanding of theory and harmony.

We also spoke about Hindi and Bollywood music and the role it plays in Indian diaspora community in the UK. Chag’s parents are from East Africa. His dad is a huge fan of  Hindi film music and that was something Chag got to listen growing up. Chag is drawn more to qawalis and bhajans and finds a deep philosophical connection to that genre of music.

LISTEN TO NIRAJ CHAG ON MUSIC AND HIS NEW ALBUM MUD DOLL

You can explore Chag’s music videos on his YouTube and follow him on Twitter.

Photo and music courtesy: Niraj Chag

The Tower of Babel of Programming Languages – Heard of Hack and Scala?

Ever wondered about the tower of Babel of  programming languages? What programming languages do Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Google use?  I have. Am often on the lookout for articles that explain how companies like Twitter and Facebok scale and morph and add new features so quickly. Remember how we stuck around Twitter when the famous Fail Whale” page appeared? We knew that folks at Twitter were backing at the back-end to try and solve the problem. How did they do it?

Last week I had an interesting discussion with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur on what language (s) they are using to build their product. And it was an eye-opener when he mentioned the pros and cons of the languages he is using to build their product. It was a combination of old and new programming languages. Using old programming languages with the new gives them a certain amount of flexibility that helps them make changes and scale he explained. The key is to make rapid changes is something that I have heard from other startup entrepreneurs. The dilemma then becomes what language (s) give you flexibility to make these rapid changes? When you peek into the Tower of Babel in the world of technology, you see a very intresting and gnarly picture. But these folks are not deterred by it and they solve this gnarly problem piece-by-piece.

This morning I stumbled across this wonderful and highly accessible article for a non-techies and techies from James Somers called “Toolkits of the Mind,” in MIT Tech Review. Somers  explains how a programming language like Ruby was born. Yukihiro Matsumoto created Ruby based on Samuel R. Delany’s 1966  Babel-17 . Somers  goes on to explain about other languages and how they are used in companies like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Google.

He explains how  Twitter solved its “Fail Whale” challenge. They used a new language called Scala. And what about Facebook?

Facebook, by contrast, is a bazaar of small experiments, a smorgasbord of buttons, feeds, and gizmos trying to capture your attention. PHP is made for making—for cooking up features quickly.

The bulk of the code is written in PHP as Somers’ explains. Facebook solved the problem by using Hack.

Hack is PHP with an optional type system; that is, you can write plain old quick and dirty PHP—or, if you so choose, you can tie yourself to the mast, adding annotations to let the type system check the correctness of your code.

There is more to the Somers article than the examples I have mentioned here. He talks about the Secret Weapon of a trading company in Manhattan and the secret weapon that Google is developing.

Overall, this is an illuminating article that is worth reading if you want to keep pace with what is happeing in the world of technology and programming languages.

 

 

VIDEO: FILMMAKER MAYA FORBES On “INFINITELY POLAR BEAR,” PINK MARTINI & JJ ABRAMS

Last week I interviewed filmmaker MayaForbes about the making of her debut film Infinitely Polar Bear.” In this video highlight Forbes talks about the title of the film and her sister China Forbes of Pink Marini’s contribution in the film. She also talks about the early support she got from director J.J.Abrams.

“Infinitely Polar Bear,” is based on a personal story about her manic depressive father. In the film Forbes takes a compassionate look at how a family learns to live with their manic depressive father. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldhana and others.

Tune back in for our extended interviw with Forbes about the making of “Infinitely Polar Bear,” which releases on Jun2 26, 2015 in San Francisco bay area

 

Film Notes: Pixar’s Inside Out

Pixar’s “Inside Out,” is funny, absorbing and packs quite a punch that leaves you thinking. Thinking about what you ask? Why, those little  voices inside our heads that we ignore. You know joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear?

The film brilliantly captures the various voices of 11 year old Riley Anderson and how they shape her interactions and moods on a daily basis. These various voices are connected to islands of family, friends and personality, which in turn shape Anderson’s longterm memories and her general disposition in life.

Things turn topsy-turvy for 11 year old Anderson when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Anderson finds herself on an emotional roller coaster ride as she settles down in her new home and new school and tries to make new friends. And, we the viewers, get an opportunity to peek inside Anderson’s head and watch these colorful little personalities try to make sense of her emotional roller coaster ride. And boy, what a vivid and interesting ride it is in 3D inside the world headquarters of these little voices.

Amy Poehler as Joy’s voice is brilliant with her high-energy and happy attitude, while Phyllis Smith steals the show as sadness. I don’t know how Smith did it, but she manages to capture sadness in a memorable way that stays with you long after you have watched the film. Lewis Black does the voice for anger, while Bill Hader is fear and Mindy Kaling is disgust.

Director Pete Docter‘s vivid and clear-eyed portyal of these 5 emotions and how they shape Anderson’s long-term memory is superb. Apparently the story is based on Docter’s daughter and the changes he observed in her when she turned 11 years old. He was puzzled and preoccupied by that change and it sparked off the story for “Inside Out.” I guess the story is an amalgamation of Docter and his daughter since Docter grew up in Minnesota before moving to San Francisco bay area to work at Pixar.

Docter literally shows us what goes on inside your head and why we behave the way we do. The film underscores that joy and sadness go hand-in-hand and that where is joy, there is bound to be sadness too.This is a film with universal appeal that cuts across cultural and age barriers. It is not easy to create a film with such a clear-eyed vision, and Docter succeeds brillianlty in achieveing that vision.

The film released on June 19, 2015 in San Francisco bay area. This was a memorable day for San Francisco bay area-based Pixar, who celebrated their opening with the historical  Victory Parade for the World Champion Golden State Warriors.

 

Joy Victory Parade

Joy Victory Parade

 

  • Title: INSIDE OUT
  • Running Time: 102 minutes
  • Status: Released
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: Animation

VIDEO: CRAIG DALTON OF DODOCASE ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP, MANUFACTURING IN SAN FRANCISCO AND VIRTUAL REALITY

 

Craig Dalton is the CEO and co-founder of DODOcase. In this interview we talk to Dalton about his entrepreneurship journey of manufacturing products locally in San Francisco. How did the idea for a locally manufactured product using traditional book binding  craftsmanship take shape at DODOcase? How did they go from making iPad and iWatch stand to making a Virtual Reality (VR) cardboard viewer?

Dalton shares the backstory of how they discovered and created VR cardboard viewers. They launched a product page within 4 hours of discovering the VR cardboard viewer. In 2014 Google introduced a concept called Google cardboard, a proof point for developers that you can use an Android phone to create a virtual reality (VR), immersive experience explains Dalton. Google gave out 6k of these VR cardboard viewers to developers at Google I/O conference in 2014. And one of those cardboard viewers came into the hands of DODOcase team, who quickly realized they could make one for the masses. The DODOcase cardboard viewer works with Android and IOS smart phones. So far they have sold 500k VR cardboard viewers.

VR cardboard viewer is just one of the many products that DODOcase creates.  The San Francisco-based startup’s first product was a locally designed and manufactured iPad case. They created their first beta product at TechShop. When their product took off they went from making it at TechShop to bringing the manufacturing of their product in-house in San Francisco.

Here is something that has never happened before on our TV show. As we were taping our interview, one of our engineers went online and ordered an iWatch stand from DODOcase.

Film Notes: Frost/Nixon and All The President’s Men

Over forty years ago on June 17, 1972 five men broke into the Democratic Party’s National Headquartes in Watergate Building, Washington DC and that set off a chain of events that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. This was the first time an American President resigned from office.

The “burglars” as they came to be referred were eventually captured and that was just the tip of a politcal iceberg known as the Watergate scandal. When the scandal broke in June of 1972  Nixon was preparing for his re-election campaign and an investigation by the FBI was underway. Nixon went on to win the reelection and continued as the President of the United States for a second term.

In the menatime investigative reporting of of the Watergate scandal by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of  The Washington Post revealed an interesting and a complex network of activities that involved violations of campaign financing laws and wiretapping that helped in the reelection of PresidentNixon Bernstein and Woodward  covered the story for  2 years (1972-1974). Helping these two young  journalists stay focussed on the case was Ben Bradlee, the editor of paper. The reporters  uncovered tracks leading up to various Government department and powerful men in Nixon’s administration. Eventually in 1974 Nixon stepped down from the Presidency and his Veep Gerald Ford was appointed as the President.

Nixon went home to California, which is where he was born and brought up. As expected there were a lot of media folks interested in bagging an interview with Nixon to find out what really happened.The person, who succeeded in getting that exclusive Nixon interview was Robert Frost, a British talkshow host. Frost got to ask that buring question on why Nixon did not burn those incriminating tapes? Nixon spent nearly 2 weeks talking to Frost. An edited version of that interview was telecast in the US and elsewhere.

The Watergate Scandal and Frost’s exclusive interview with Nixon were tailor-made stories for Hollywood. They had the right mix of ingredients and made for a compelling narrative. And then there was the fact that Woodward and Bernstein had written a book about it called All The President’s Men. Hollywood made 2 interesting films. The first was All The President’s Men released in 1976, and the second one came almost 30 years later called Frost/Nixon.

The first film on Watergate scandal is director Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men. The film shows how Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Woodward (Robert Redford) got the first whiff of the scandal and how it ballooned into a much larger scandal involving some of the most powerful people in Washington DC. The movie walks you through the Watergate scandal and the crucial role played by Washinton Post’s editor Ben Bradlee played by Jason Robards. This is a must-watch film. The film satisfies that inner political junkie lurking inside of you, or if you are a history buff or if you are simply trying to get a picture of the scandal that rocked the American political landscape to its core.

The second film is Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon released in 2008. Howard’s Frost/Nixon takes you behind the scene and shows how Frost came to land this interview with Nixon, and how he prepared for the interview. Frank Langella, a well-known East Cosat theatre actor played the role of Nixon and Welsh actor Michael Sheen was cast as Richard Frost. At first I had a hard time accepting Langella as Nixon because of the physical dissimilarities. And then there was that fact that Langella looked very comfortable talking to the camera. Nixon, as many political observers and commentators have pointed out was never comfortable in front of the camera. What was also missing is that particular gaze of Nixon. “Shifty” is how some folks described that look. I know these might seem minor points to quibble, but they did nag me a tiny bit. Once, I overcome my initial resistance, I found the film to be an absorbing watch.

All The President’s Men and Frost/Nixon is available on Netflix.

 

SAN JOSE JAZZ SUMMERFEST CELEBRATES ITS 26th YEAR AUG 7-9, 2015

San Jose Jazz

San Jose Jazz

San Jose Jazz Summerfest celebrates its 26th year from August 7-9, 2015. The 3 day celebration will see over 100 performances spread across 12 stages in downtown San Jose. There is something for every one from jazz to blues to salsa to soul to zydeco music.

The opening night features San Francisco Bay Area’s Con Brio and Chicago’s JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound in the main stage.

Here are some of the guests featured in this year’s jazz festival: Eddie PalmieriOran Etkin, Javon Jackson, Jimmy Heath, Gary Bartz and Donald Harrison,  Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band; Dave Haskell Group,  Jamie Dubberly & Orquesta Dharma, Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia, Bombay Jazz and others.

The festival always features local musicians and high school bands. Sylvia Cuenca New York QuartetNatalie Cressman, Aaron LingtonLe Boeuf BrothersSan Jose Jazz High School All Stars and San Jose Jazz Summer Camp Combo are some of the musicians from the bay area. You can catch most of them in the Silicon Valley stage during the festival.

Brazil’s award winning 20-piece jazz band Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz will play at this year’s festival. The band is also playing at New  York’s Lincoln Center.

Trumpeter Etienne Charles will have his world premiere of “San Jose Suite.”  The piece explores stories, rituals, native chants, rhythms, and other cultural elements of 3 different San Jose’s – in Trinidad, Costa Rica and California.

For tickets  and information about San Jose Jazz Summerfest visit their website.