Friday, October 26, 2012

Books are magic

Why haven't I been reading every day of my life?

I never really read anything but textbook assignments all the way through school. And when I did read something, my lack of patience and undiagnosed A.D.D. was what kept me more interested in movies, I suppose, than committing to reading an actual book. But lately, I've been reading again. And I'm starting to get panicky if I don't have that time at the end of the day to escape into a book.

I just finished two books by Orson Scott Card. The first one, Pastwatch, is subtitled "The redemption of Christopher Columbus". Card is most well known for the Ender's Game series, which I read a few years back. He's such a good writer that it doesn't matter the topic, he nails the reader page after page. This latest one, Enchantment, is a different spin on the story of Sleeping Beauty. Card had to really do his homework on the book as it is steeped in the scholarly character, Ivan, who is one of the few speakers of a dead Slavic language allegedly spoken by the cursed beauty and her community. Ivan gets to experience a scholar's dream by entering the fairy tale and coming face to face with the likes of Baba Yaga, history's most infamous witch.

I'm reminded again that fiction is the only thing that connects me to reality. I just can't read non-fiction for long, which is why I think, I was such a lousy student. I was buried, like most students, in non-fiction textbooks. Which is like eating predigested nutrition bars for every meal. After a while it seems to make more sense to skip a lot of meals rather than submit yourself to "what's good for you".

It's a nice feeling to have this escape into reality though. It's a great place to be able to find food and drink for the soul. I have a much better understanding of Orson Scott Card's research to reproduce a version of what "could" have been the pre-Russian village of Taina. The thought that a king ruled alongside his people, leading them both into war as well as leading them into harvest and laboring at their side to prepare to have food through the harsh winters.

And that's the point of fiction I suppose. Coming into the election, it's interesting to note the differences of a courageous leader that takes to the battlefield wearing his own sword, and one that spends most of his last elected year trying to convince the people that he's worthy of another four years. This is a non-partisan comment, for all elected officials on either side of the proverbial aisle makes the same mistake. I found the idea in fiction though, not by observing this or that incorruptible contemporary government or system. The power of mythology is really the narrative we need most in these alien days.

History has a way... they say, of repeating itself. May it be the case. I hope I live to see the day when the power of an influential person in my life is not forced upon me because I'm one of the voting masses. Rather would it come by intimacy and my own inability to resist the winsome and honorable courage of someone that wants to do the right thing. It's never simple, and often fraught with mistakes, fairy tales do have a way of glamorizing the ideal. A good story well told, however takes us through the journey of that hero in the best of times and the worst of times.

As Baba Yaga cannibalizes her victims and plucks out their eyes to make potions and spells, it's clear that there is nothing tantalizing about evil. Yet evils we must endure. We are all in a story... many stories actually. We, all of us have the rights and responsibilities to live them the best we can, and to rise above our own mundane textbook lives. I for one, will be picking up more fiction so that the truth of the stories I'm living have some bearing. Non-fiction is meant for instruction manuals and recipes at dinnertime. May the rest be myths and legends to encourage whomever comes after us to continue to do the rightest things they can. Complete with mistakes and setbacks. There is magic in the book itself, because the story has the power to conjure and seduce the mind. A most dangerous, and welcome companion for whatever's left of my own journey to the end.

Friday, October 05, 2012


"It's the small things", she said, "that I'm thankful for. When I'm pruning or digging in my garden, I realize it's a gift."

Most people look at digging in the garden or pruning as a task. Catch them on a good day and they might tell you it's a nice break from the routine of the daily grind. But when you've been through something that nearly took your life, it is the small things that you're thankful for.

It was good to see my friend yesterday, it has been too long. I remember visiting her in the same trauma center I'd been taken to after my accident nearly seven years ago. The bleeding in her brain had caused so much immediate damage that it didn't look like she'd recover. But there she stood yesterday looking better than ever.

Before something traumatic happened to me, it' was as though bad things only happen to other people. During the recovery, as lucidity returned in whatever fashion it's going to, it still seemed like the person I'd become was somebody I'd heard a story about. It couldn't be me, of course, who was laying here with all these tubes hanging out of me. Now, too long after the pain to remember all of the details, it's clear that it was me all along. And on a good day, as I've said many times, I'm thankful for the little things.

So often, I've heard it said, that people of faith spend so much time worrying about life after death that they don't live life before death. It's a funny preoccupation when you stop and think about it. Those believers are not alone either. It's possible to worry so much about life as it is, that you don't experience life at all. I think it's true, in the small things you'll find what's worth being thankful for.

As I said goodbye after talking with her, my co-survivor said, "hey, keep writing in your blog. I read that even though you write infrequently". I do know I miss writing, and maybe I can get back to it more. It's a small thing really, to just write a little about the things one guy sees along the way. But the gift tends to give itself over and over, doesn't it. A small encouragement. "hey, keep writing..." The small thing I'm thankful for today is that my friend is still with us... and that I'm part of the "us" that is here to notice. And that's not a given. Hopefully those I love don't have to taste near death to experience wide-awake life on their way to that final day they press through that thin barrier between here and "there".

Monday, August 13, 2012

Northern Wake is a GO

Northern Wake fans... I just wanted to let you know that filming is a go for the trailer to the film that will begin full production in 2013. You were part of the first Kickstarter fundraising push that grabbed the attention of several hundred interested backers. I travel this week to Alaska and Maui with DP John Northrup of Asheville, NC to shoot our first footage and complete a trailer to raise the remaining funding for future production.

 FOLLOW OUR PROGRESS You can follow our filming progress in two places... and on the films Facebook page... in fact, please hit that page and tell your friends about it... liking it is your option, but you know how it goes, social network popularity being what it is can only help.

I secured funding from the National Marine Sanctuary program and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. That sparked the interest of NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources in Juneau who have become incredibly supportive of the film's success.  Also, an Australian company that has developed devices that might just alert whales to the presence of fishing gear, Fumunda, soon to be Future Oceans, along with the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia have stepped forward with funding. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, home to the film's narrator Ed Lyman also stepped forward to fund our production.

These backers have provided enough to travel and film the trailer... but we are far from funded. Please follow the link to the Northern Wake website and click on the DONATE button to support the upcoming production.

Associate Producer: Back the film at $1,000 and you will make the end credits as Associate Producer
Co-Producer: Back the film at $10,000 and you will share the opening and end credits as Co-Producer
Executive Producer: Back the film at $25,000 or more and you will share opening and end credits as Executive Producer

Stay tuned for other rewards that will be listed on and on the Facebook page -

Please feel free to comment or drop a line to me on our Facebook page. Thanks for your interest in Northern Wake.

Lou Douros, Producer

Friday, July 06, 2012


I've just updated the Northern Wake website. You can still find it at, but now it no longer points to the kickstarter page.

I've now made contact with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and hoping for an introduction to Sony to see if they're interested in our deploying their new helmet cam (a competitor to the entrenched GoPro).

They'd be a good sponsor/partner.

More as it develops.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Northern Wake

Quick update... We're in a holding pattern at the moment. I've received some funding for pre-production (National Marine Sanctuary Foundation). I have a constant flow of interest and it takes time to shop any project, especially right now. I'm looking for corporate sponsorship at the moment. There are a few foundations and NGO's that are looking at the project as well. I remain hopeful. It may be that we don't go into full production until next summer. I'm still optimistic that there could be some footage that comes from the cameras that are in place up in Alaska with rescue teams there. 

I will continue to post here as it unfolds.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

National Ocean Week 2012

I just returned from National Ocean Week in Washington, DC. While I was there, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation sponsored event. I received lots of compliments after the session, which may just mean the audience was intensely polite. In any case, several people asked for the outline and references from the talk, so I'm publishing it here. This is approximately what I said...

CHOW Film Panel 2012
Lou Douros
1.  Introductory Remarks
10 years ago, the 11 month old girl my wife and I adopted from China could not speak English. Mei An eventually learned to say her name, but it came out as “na”. The word “milk” came out “nunk” and her word for cup was “chup”. So when she would say, “Na nunk chup”, it meant “Mei An wants milk in a cup”.

We later adopted a 2 ½ year old boy from Taiwan. Tynan had a language, but his version of Taiwanese was not useful … AT ALL. But he did learn that “Na nunk chup” meant he got milk. He adapted, why? Because he REALLY WANTED MILK. He learned the language because it mattered.
Today, “more than 50% of all content consumed on the internet is video content”. In addition, according to YouTube reports, in the time I’ve been talking, 48 hours of video content has been uploaded.

Film (and online video) has become its own sort of language, or at least the primitive beginnings of a language. I say primitive because if the predictions are correct, three things are about to make us fluent, not in English, nor Mandarin, nor Spanish… but fluent in video.

• Massive increase in IP traffic
• Massive increase in mobile devices and their capabilities
• Massive increase in IP delivered VIDEO content

Cisco, only a few days ago, released a forecast[i] for 2011 – 2016.

Here are some of their predictions:

In 2016, the gigabyte equivalent of all movies ever made will cross global IP networks every 3 minutes.
Global IP networks will deliver 12.5 petabytes every 5 minutes in 2016. (A Petabyte is 1 Million GB, or 1,000 TB).

Globally, mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016.
Mobile data traffic will reach 10.8 exabytes per month by 2016. (1 Exabyte = 1 Billion GB or 1 Million TB)

ALSO… Google has recently predicted[ii] that 1 billion people will use a mobile phone as their primary tool to access the internet in 2012.

By 2016, it could take over 6 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month.
Every second, 1.2 million minutes of video content will cross the network in 2016.

Video-on-demand traffic will triple by 2016. The equivalent of 4 billion DVDs per month.
Last November, Cisco predicted that in three years, 90% of all internet traffic will be video.

The point is this. If you want to make your point, you better learn to speak the right language. If online video is the language, then documentary is something like an dialect. As with any language, there needs to be structure, rules and standards… and the structure of film is STORY.

2.  Love the story. Passion.

Something special happens when we start to care about stories.

A few years back, Mark DiOrio and Mara Kerr became deeply interested in the humpback whales that migrated between Alaska and Hawaii and gotten entangled in marine debris. Mara was especially touched by the effort to free them. In short, she started to care. The more she knew about it, the more passionate she became, and that fueled her already deep involvement in the ocean as an author. And that’s when Mark and Mara shared their contagious passion with me.

>> VIDEO CLIP 1 <<  (1:11) 

So that provided the setting for the film. Classic story has a setting, a hero or protagonist, and a journey. And that’s what resonates with us.

“In The Wake Of Giants” was not a film about whales. I spent most of my 30 year career telling the stories of missionaries and NGO’s in developing countries. What I learned in that time was to tease out who is who. Our humpbacks are the damsels in distress. Our hero, in this case Ed Lyman, who represents the Marine Sanctuary Program and the whole network of rescuers who took us on a journey.

>> VIDEO CLIP 3 << (1:15)

So… the journey, it’s pretty clear that what’s at stake in this case is the life of a whale. This is the kind of thing that connected with Mara in the first place. You’re pulling for the whale and the rescuers there to rescue it. You get the feeling that they whale and the rescuers are working together to meet the task. And this story had the reward built in, as they make the cut and the whale is freed.
A couple things about style.

 • MUSICAL SCORE I insisted that we score the film. We had no budget so I recruited my son Blaise, a talented but untested composer. Music played a key role in moving the story forward… why? Because our audience is musically literate. We had to respect our audience. They’re fluent. Blaise and I collaborated heavily on moving the story both visually and musically.

CREATING WONDER  Even a 5 year old is video literate. I recently watched a three year old navigate an iPad to Netflix to find her favorite kid’s program… Good story has a sense of wonder, (that’s done by asking the right questions), and highly disciplined editing.

SEDUCTION  Shortly into our 90 day process of making ITWOG, it occurred to me that my job was not to close the gap between the audience and the ocean… but to narrow the gap. The true test of persuasion is if you can get your enemy to do a double-take. If a whaler could say, “I disagree with you, but cool film…” I’ve narrowed the gap.

There is a difference between a lecture and a story. I believe we need to lecture less and seduce more.

3.  Invest in Film
There used to be patrons of the arts. The Medici’s funded the art of the day because it made them powerful and the desire to be a powerful force in Italian culture. To own art was to own the message. That’s not so different is it? Do you want people to care about the ocean? They have to fall in love with it, and I believe that’s done through story.
If you believe what Cisco is predicting is even close… you better start reserving part of your budget for making your work relevant to today’s viewers. Today we search for our content, but increasingly… our content has a way of finding us. YouTube reports that the vast majority of videos watched are not a direct result of a search. We watch what is recommended to us.

Bob Talbot said to me recently… “At my age it’s more important to be effective than to be right.” Another way to say that is… pay attention to how people are wired, LOVE the story you want to tell and tell it in a way that seduces them to narrow the gap between them and the ocean. Believe it or not, you will not save the oceans. You know who will? The billions of people who don’t see their connection to it. Film can connect people and the sea.

Ocean managers… grant writers… researchers… even corporate investors, the newest and most prolific language is evolving all around you. It’s time to step forward in a meaningful way and put funds into film… Develop a trusting relationship with a filmmaker who is fluent in story… when they become passionate about your work, others will begin to care about the ocean. Wouldn’t it be disappointing if, by 2016 your only meaningful message was… “na nunk chup”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


OK, OK, I've heard enough. Probably 10 people have told me to try making a film from funding at I've looked it over, and am going to give it a try. If you're reading this and want to be included in the intensive network effort involved in raising funds through this innovative crowd-funding concept, write me and let me know...

You've got my email address... it's listed here in the blog and if you even write a comment, I'll get notified.

Oh, the film... the sequel to In The Wake Of Giants. It's based in the other end of the migration for the whales in Maui. It's called.... NORTHERN WAKE.

Hope this works!

More to come....

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Schools close for the threat of snow...

Snow days aren't what they used to be. When I was a kid in Michigan, of course we lived for the days the radio would report closures and we'd stay home from school. Back in those days there was actually snow on the ground. Lot's of snow. It was Michigan, after all.

Today, there was some drizzly rain, and my kids were thanking God for closing school for the day. Literally, God got the credit from them.

You can say it's global warming or climate change (or whatever it's called) that is messing up the snow days. I don't think so. I'm chalking it up to trigger-happy school administrators who fear a lawsuit coming from slush-related head injury. Whatever it is, my kids get out of school for the dumbest things these days. "Collaboration" days is another one. I was thinking about that while I was sitting here at Starbucks. Imagine what would happen to business if Starbucks employees took "collaboration" days... or mornings.... Like right around the time teachers were driving to their jobs. "I'm sorry sir, we can't serve you coffee right now, it's a collaboration morning, and we Starbucks employees need time to talk among ourselves." Well, teachers would just go to another coffee place, Pete's say, and get coffee there. Haha, I guess we can't really apply capitalist agendas to the business of education, now can we? Well, unless it's when you're talking about a union - something designed to protect employees from wicked capitalists... hmmm.

That's kinda how it goes in our schools now. Someone had this idea... if teachers just took more time to talk among themselves, they wouldn't have to go out for beers to do it on their own time. Nor would they have to wait all the way to the 10 weeks of summer they have off... every day.

OK I really do have a LOT of respect for teachers. I would NOT want their jobs. They have the hardest jobs on the planet, if you ask me. At least public teachers in the United States, anyway. It's not even the administrator's fault for closing schools for the threat of flurries.

It's ... ok, well, my fault. And anyone who sits by and allows freeloading, lawsuit-happy citizens to extract money for the most irresponsible reasons.  After all, an accident on the way to school could be the fault of mother nature, whom you could never win a suit against, so it would be the transportation department who should have plowed earlier. Or the bus company that didn't train drivers to chain up. Or the chain manufacturer who didn't make it easier.

Of course the district can close and get off the list of deep-pockets. And since I chalked it up to lawsuits, I guess I get to draw this conclusion. Wonder what would happen if I chalked it up to half priced lift tickets for teachers mid-week at the ski areas.... ohhhhh wait a minute...... I'm going to have to go check that out. Back soon.........