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Sacrificing Harvey Weinstein

The downfall of movie studio executive Harvey Weinstein following articles earlier this month in The New Yorker and the New York Times alleging sexual assault and harassment not only demonstrates Hollywood’s hypocrisy, though it certainly does that. What’s happened in the two weeks since the Weinstein claims first emerged has major, possibly ominous, implications for due process, free exercise of speech and the press, and moviemaking. So, I don’t think the scandal’s sudden consequences are necessarily positive. I doubt that the fundamental cause of sexual assault and harassment will be named and eradicated as a result. Indeed, I think the Weinstein scandal is more likely to embolden the worst plans by regressive, Puritanical, anti-sexual leftists and conservatives alike.

It’s impossible to fully account for Hollywood’s hypocrisy here. It’s exhausting to contemplate. I think of Hollywood’s rationalizations for behavior by Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson and Bill Cosby. Or Hollywood’s calls for prison reform and Judeo-Christian notions of forgiveness and its denunciations of anyone making moral judgments of anyone else about anything, such as Islamic law and its impact on gays, women and rape victims. I think, too, of the left’s constant cries about a “rush to judgment” to find guilty the accused murderer O.J. Simpson, whom a jury found responsible for the deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. Unlike Harvey Weinstein, the people for whom rationalizations were made were actually arrested, tried and convicted or legally held accountable.

Not Weinstein. Hollywood’s campaign against him is unprecedented. Whatever one thinks of Weinstein’s guilt, never has so much been said so publicly without substantiation or confirmation or arrest, trial or conviction that’s lead to such huge and devastating impact on one’s life, work and legacy — and industry.

This week, Viacom-owned Nickelodeon fired Loud House creator Chris Savino after women made claims of “sexual harassment, unwanted advances, [and] inappropriate behavior” against the animator, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Savino, who has neither been charged with a crime nor named in a lawsuit, was terminated after someone used the hashtag #MeToo. The future of Amazon’s microstudio is in question after its CEO resigned following post-Weinstein claims of abuse. The Weinstein Company’s existence is also in question.

Speech, too, is suddenly suspect and can lead to castigation. An actress made a claim in public against Hollywood studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, asserting that he made a comment to the press decades ago, a claim which Katzenberg denies. He apologized to the actress for something he says he did not say.

Harvey Weinstein apologized, too, for bad behavior he admits. He did so immediately after the October 5 New York Times article was published. He hired a women’s rights lawyer. He pleaded for help, guidance and forgiveness. He pledged to seek rehabilitation (and, according to People, he’s in treatment). In other words, he did everything Cosby and Polanski did not do. However, Weinstein denies doing anything non-consensual. Is it possible he’s innocent of some of the charges? New York City law enforcement investigated a claim and, after examining the results, declined to press charges. Linda Fairstein, a women’s advocate and early pioneer against sex crimes, came to the conclusion that at least one claim against Weinstein was without merit. The former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor told the New York Times that she had determined a complaint was unfounded.

Time cover

None of this slowed the mass media assault on Harvey Weinstein. Though I can’t recall that the press has ever been as explicitly biased and unified in a campaign against an accused individual against whom not a single charge has been filed in court — on the contrary, the press generally sought to report the side of the accused, too, in cases and/or claims against Simpson, Cosby, Polanski, Gibson and others — only Harvey Weinstein has been unequivocally pronounced a predator, as Time‘s cover proclaims with neither doubt nor scrutiny.

I tend to believe people who claim to have been assaulted or harassed, though I’ve been wrong. I am dubious, however, of the herd mentality.

Certainly, there is no doubt that the sexual assault and harassment claims published in the New Yorker, written by ex-MSNBC host Ronan Farrow, and the New York Times are extremely disturbing and, if the claims are true, monstrous. And Weinstein, who claims he is innocent of the worst allegations, is, as I’ve said, bearing severe consequences. Yesterday, he was denounced again by his longtime creative partner, director Quentin Tarantino. He was similarly condemned by artists ranging from the melodramatic Meryl Streep (Suffragette, Into the Woods, The Iron Lady), who praised Weinstein as “God” in 2012, to the great Judi Dench (Philomena, Victoria & Abdul). Channing Tatum (Dear John) and Apple went back on previous agreements with Weinstein. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revoked his membership. The Producers Guild voted to condemn him. France seeks to revoke his Legion of Honor. Weinstein has been terminated by the company he’d founded. His wife reportedly took the kids and left. Police in New York, London and Los Angeles are investigating certain allegations.

Only three show business outcasts, Lindsay Lohan, Oliver Stone (JFK, Snowden) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), who married his adopted child, each of whom have worked with Weinstein, expressed varying degrees of sympathy for Weinstein. They were promptly vilified. Mayim Bialik, an actress who describes herself as an Orthodox Jewish feminist, was similarly attacked and forced to apologize when what she wrote about sexual harassment (for, surprise!, the New York Times) failed in the minds of feminists to pre-exonerate women of any wrongdoing under any circumstances.

Many rightly and astutely condemn the accusations against Weinstein, which range from peculiar, vulgar and inappropriate at best to sexual harassment and rape or sexual assault at worst. But, this time, the fact that these are allegations is downplayed by the press. Even recently accused and fallen Fox News principals such as the late boss Roger Ailes, host Bill O’Reilly and recently promoted host Eric Bolling, whose son was found dead within hours of his father’s termination, were bestowed by the dominant media with the qualified ‘alleged’ most of the time.

But the left-wing dominated and conservative-driven press have both banded together against Harvey Weinstein. The left stands against him from the feminist-statist-collectivist perspective, using the scandal to denounce contracts, men in positions of power and to show that they can take down one of their own, not merely right-wing TV hosts and businessmen. The right’s against him from the traditionalist-statist-religionist viewpoint, using the scandal to denounce Hollywood and movies, Democrats in positions of power and to prove that they, too, can pile on a presumed serial sexual harasser, abuser or rapist. As the left did with O’Reilly, conservatives attack Weinstein for settling with accusers, as if merely being accused of sexual harassment, and especially reaching a settlement, is tantamount to proof of one’s guilt. The conservative Weekly Standard refers to “Harvey Weinstein’s long record of sexual harassment” as if it’s an established fact.

It isn’t, at least not yet, and taking assertions as facts is a mistake, even for conservatives and especially for a serious magazine.

Caricature of Weinstein as killer clown from “It”

Leftists, who calls themselves liberals and progressives, a term which dates to anti-capitalist Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, make that distinction when the accused fits a particular altruist-collectivist agenda, such as government-imposed quotas or new laws mandating egalitarianism. A wealthy, white male capitalist such as Weinstein — I mean, really look at this caricature, which appears on the cover of a Hollywood trade publication — does not qualify for that status (particularly if he’s Jewish). So, I suspect the longtime Democratic Party donor and activist is being sacrificed not for his transgressions, though I know that some on the left are sincere, as for his being caught and convenient. According to almost everyone in Hollywood, especially film journalists writing about how they knew how bad he was and why they, too, did and said nothing about it, knew or had heard about Harvey Weinstein’s improprieties. What persuaded the pack mentality press and their enablers in movie publicity departments to come out is that the claims against Weinstein were already reported in the New York Times, the left’s arbiter for whether, what and how to think. What the Times gains from aping the National Enquirer in pseudo-journalism ought to be clear. Previously accused men were either targeted for character assassination or disclosures (depending on who you tend to believe) through coordinated social media campaigns — I think all of the Fox News personalities, including two who survived, were initially targeted by the left — or reports of the claims were widely known.

But those scandals failed to dislodge Fox News, hastening the left’s long, historic march toward merging with religionists, traditionalists and conservatives and bringing the merger to a kind of climax. Not in an explicitly coordinated conspiracy to target a Jewish capitalist “fatcat”. But Harvey Weinstein is the perfect sacrifice for both conservatives and leftists. The left gets to claim credibility in tossing out one of its own and in grand fashion while advancing an anti-capitalist, anti-individualist agenda. The right gets to notch a win on the scoreboard after a series of losses (chiefly, the embarrassment of Trump) and reinforce its assault on Hollywood as the root of all that Judeo-Christianity regards as evil — namely, sex. In this sense, secular Miramax and its successor, The Weinstein Company, with its slate of Hollywood’s best movies, is absolutely ‘guilty’ as charged.

Whatever the merit of the women’s claims, which I tend to believe and hope leads to greater awareness and discourse about these serious and complicated topics, Harvey Weinstein’s fast, epic downfall makes faster the fusion of the New Left’s and conservatives’ political agenda. The result is likely to be accelerated momentum toward a common, sinister goal: total government control of the arts, starting with movies. The left supposedly wants power for the sake of the so-called underprivileged. So does the right. Their battle over which favored group is underprivileged (and, therefore, warrants power over movies), Christians or women, for instance, comes next.

Gone are calls for admission, disclosure and remorse. That ended with NBC News’ defrocked nightly anchorman Brian Williams, another powerful white media male who, like Harvey Weinstein, made mistakes and who, like Harvey Weinstein, immediately admitted wrongdoing which is what detractors used to say they want. But they don’t and remorse is never enough. As with their united opposition to civil discourse courtesy of Starbucks, conservatives and the left seek submission, humiliation and power.

Observe that, in most of the coverage about Weinstein, there’s rarely a mention of even a few of his movies, which might at least provide context for why his alleged power abuse matters and what’s at stake with the end of a pioneering movie studio and the 150-plus people who work there. Note that disclosures of sexual abuse by Terry Crews, James Van Der Beek and Corey Feldman were ignored by conservatives, who, following the Catholic Church same-sex pedophilia conspiracy, don’t acknowledge religious sexual abuse, and by feminist-leftists, who tend to minimize or don’t acknowledge men as victims.

Whether every rotten and disgusting claim against Harvey Weinstein is 100 percent true, the nation is impoverished by the lynch mob mentality and its disproportionate response to claims of injustice. Why should a studio be boycotted within two weeks because its ex-boss is accused of behaving badly? On what grounds? Think of all the female sex predators — the guilty, convicted pedophiles and predators — and consider what’s happened to their lives, careers and institutions. I just read an article written with sympathy and understanding about the woman who as a teacher seduced a male child student and, later, married him. Not a word in that article about institutional sexism and sanctioning of sexual abuse of boys or who knew what, when and why.

Gretchen Carlson, the beauty contestant turned Fox News hostess whose claims against Roger Ailes led to a settlement and started a wave of claims against the men of Fox News, wrote in Time that she seeks to “prohibit the forced-arbitration clauses that are embedded in many employment contracts.”

Conservative Carlson’s proposal if enacted would constitute a violation of private, consensual relationships and contract law. But the rationale for prohibiting arbitration — that state-sponsored controls on how people choose to live, work and trade will magically change people’s bad behavior — is identical to the basis for the left’s longtime solutions.

Besides, the left asserts, might makes right. In a statement, the Academy celebrated its expulsion of Oscar-winning Harvey Weinstein by boasting that he was rejected by a vote “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.” The Academy, which has initiated no action against members accused of serial rape and sued for sexual assault (Cosby), convicted of drunk driving before lashing out against Jews, gays and women and pleaded no contest to a charge of battery against an ex-girlfriend (Gibson) and those who plead guilty to a sex crime involving a 13-year-old girl (Polanski, who fled the country), added that they expelled Weinstein “to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.”

Reporting on the Academy’s expulsion, the New York Times, which had initiated the campaign against Weinstein with its Oct. 5 article, which had no clear editorial impetus other than as a random expose, admitted that “no charges have been filed against [Weinstein]” adding that “[p]ressure had been building on the academy to purge Mr. Weinstein.” No admission that it was pressure that the Times had applied.

With the can of worms now opened, the Academy either now must define its own membership ethical standards, conduct membership morality detection and expel those who violate the moral code — or be dismissed and disregarded as having no moral credibility. Either way, it is compromised as an arts and sciences academy.

Cautioning against jumping to conclusions about Harvey Weinstein fell to film director Woody Allen — who, incidentally, has been offered membership in Hollywood’s academy and refused — who warned that Hollywood’s and New York’s purge “could lead to a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself. That’s not right either.” Woody Allen is right, though, predictably, his comment lead to another woman writing another op-ed in the New York Times titled “Yes, This is a Witch Hunt. I’m a Witch and I’m Hunting You”.

In yet another recent Weinstein-themed Times article, it’s being reported that “a spreadsheet listing men in the media business accused of sexist behaviors ranging from inappropriate flirting to rape surfaced last week and was circulated by email.” This lead one media writer to conclude that: “Things do get complicated when you start lumping all this behavior together in a big anonymous spreadsheet of unsubstantiated allegations against dozens of named men.”

Today’s contender for monster of the moment, however, is Harvey Weinstein, and, while he appears to have earned his monster status, it is important to keep in mind which movies his studios have produced.

Miramax and The Weinstein Company movies, as I’ve written for years, are among the most thought-provoking, serious, controversial, enlightening and joyful movies of the last 40 years.

This list is partial: Scream, The English Patient, Cop Land, Good Will Hunting, The Mighty, The Human Stain, Shakespeare in Love, The Cider House Rules, The Founder, The Shipping News, An Unfinished Life, The Others, Iris, Chicago, Cold Mountain, Finding Neverland, Carol, Shall We Dance, The Aviator, Sin City, Dirty Girl, My Week with Marilyn, The Iron Lady, Silver Linings Playbook, Fruitvale Station, Gold, Django Unchained, The Butler, The Giver, August: Osage County, Woman in Gold, Macbeth, Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot, Sing Street, The Artist, Lion, The King’s Speech, Chocolat and Benedict Cumberbatch in a new movie about an industrial contest between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison, The Current War, which now may never be seen.

A critic for the Los Angeles Times chimed in this week to reduce Weinstein’s role even in making movies to a mere “knack for putting golden statuettes in the hands of talented people.” And pop singer Tom Jones, whom at least one actress has told the press had a reputation for making unwanted sexual advances, told the West Coast Times that he “has little sympathy for abusers. “If you’ve done something wrong, you’ve got to pay for it, or prove that you haven’t done anything wrong,” [Jones] said.”

In reality, you can’t prove a negative. With left and right merging and threatening to create a huge, new commission to control companies — Disney-owned Lucasfilm (Star Wars) boss Kathleen Kennedy proposed a new commission composed of “lawyers and legal scholars, sociologists, psychologists, feminists, activists, and theorists” to monitor Hollywood‘s work behavior — the opportunity to admit wrongdoing if you think you might be wrong, show remorse and argue that you deserve a second chance because you’ve earned it by doing work that demonstrates good character and that you’re capable of recovering — as Harvey Weinstein and Brian Williams did — may disappear.

In Weinstein’s case, in less than 14 days.

I keep hearing, from Oprah and others, and reading, in New York Times op-ed after op-ed, that this proposed post-Weinstein power shift and unmitigated assault on a man’s character and wiping out of his legacy, including that which he achieved for the good, is not about Harvey Weinstein. It’s about the allegedly assaulted and harassed women, it’s asserted. To this point, an online writer who covers show business for Vox.com observes in an intelligent commentary that

Trying to erase Harvey Weinstein’s legacy will not erase the harm he’s done. Pretending Weinstein was never a part of those TV shows and renaming his company won’t negate what he allegedly did — both to the women he targeted and to the people he enlisted into helping him do it. Weinstein didn’t operate alone when it came to acting out his alleged patterns of intimidation, harassment, and abuse. The fact of the matter is, he couldn’t have. He didn’t just need willing accomplices; he needed a culture that thrived on intimidation and dismissed the vulnerable, and he got it in Hollywood.

This is true. I, too, have seen and experienced it firsthand. I’m glad people are coming out and writing and speaking about what happens in Hollywood, New York and anywhere assault and harassment takes place (how about Washington).

Proposed bans on arbitration and non-disclosure agreements and a commission to monitor, detect and control people’s business conduct will lead to worse, not better, working conditions. Jumping to conclusions and glorifying a witch hunt merely switches harassment from one sex to the other and compounds the real and irrational discrimination against today’s woman. That subculture in which people enable, ignore, compartmentalize, evade and sanction injustice must be rejected and, instead, people must honor and practice principles of justice. It is hard, but it can be done. Progress is possible but not in an atmosphere of spite, revenge and indiscriminate accusation. It means listening, not just talking, about sexual assault and harassment. At its root, progress requires the use of one’s reasoning mind, not belief in dogma from conservatives or leftists — or their new, ominously irrational hybrid of both.

An Objectivist in Pittsburgh

Blake Scholl addresses Objectivists in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Scott Holleran)

Watching Boom Supersonic founder and CEO Blake Scholl address this summer’s Objectivist Conference in Pittsburgh, I was struck by the newness, youth and growth of the movement to advance Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Blake is a friend whom I’ve known since he was a student at Pittsburgh’s distinguished university named for two great American capitalists — Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie — at the end of the 20th century. Today, Blake’s a leading new voice for capitalism, seeking to reclaim and restore supersonic air travel.

As the only philosophy to advocate capitalism on the ethics of egoism, which Ayn Rand (1905-1982) reduced to what she boldly and, I think, rightly called the virtue of selfishness, Objectivism is perfect for attracting, inspiring and guiding productive achievers such as Blake Scholl, who departed after his talk in Pittsburgh to Paris, where he tripled orders for Boom Supersonic’s new jet (its XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator is scheduled to fly at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California in 2019). The system of ideas created by the author of Atlas Shrugged is bound to foster businessmen such as Blake Scholl, who presented his vision for aviation based on speed, convenience and quality before what the Ayn Rand Institute claims is its largest annual Objectivist Conference.

Pittsburgh

The city of steel, bridges and exemplary education, Pittsburgh, too, is the perfect place to exhibit an enticing preview of the manmade. Pittsburgh was at the crux of creating the world’s single, greatest period of productive achievement, the Industrial Revolution. This magnificent city, where pioneering soldiers, frontiersmen, industrialists, doctors and artists protected and forged the nation’s most enduring new enterprises — in medicine, engineering, energy, movies, television and the arts — continues to be underestimated. Just like America, Ayn Rand and the best minds.

Certainly, Boom’s Blake Scholl is not infallible; he may make mistakes in executing his vision. However, with Blake’s presentation, the Objectivist movement reaches a higher point — fittingly, in a tower located next to railroad tracks at the south bank of the Monongahela River in a proudly industrialized metropolis which climaxes at a golden triangle pointing West, stretching into lush, green hills. This year’s OCON included lectures on intellectual property, stoicism and the gold standard. Ayn Rand biographer Shoshana Milgram delivered insightful talks on Rand’s interviews with industrialists and an examination of Rand’s favorite novel, which is about building a grain elevator. There was a screening and discussion of the Oscar-nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, trivia and talent events and a panel discussion on free speech with Flemming Rose, a journalist who once published a Mohammed cartoon and still needs police protection. Pittsburgh doctor Amesh Adalja spoke on the history of infectious disease in the city where his heroes, Drs. Thomas Starzl and Jonas Salk, made medical history. OCON Pittsburgh — during which the Pittsburgh Penguins won hockey’s Stanley Cup and I visited family and friends and saw the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park — included tours of the Homestead blast furnace once owned by Andrew Carnegie‘s U.S. Steel, Henry Clay Frick’s (1849-1919) home and owned works of art and Fallingwater, the home Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kaufmann in 1936. I was writing TV scripts on deadline during the conference and missed some talks, events and mixers. And, while certain conference services, staff and events failed, fell flat or need improvement, others were good, new or interesting.

Blake Scholl’s talk stands out as an Objectivist hallmark. That this Carnegie Mellon University graduate stood as a businessman against the cynicism and anti-intellectualism of our times to demonstrate that the good is possible and that air transportation can and ought to be grand, fast and glorious realizes Ayn Rand’s depiction of man as a heroic being. That he did it in Pittsburgh is perfectly rational. So, here comes evidence that the potential for the gleaming, industrialized future Ayn Rand’s idealistic novels envision, promise and dramatize can be made real. Whatever happens on the day after tomorrow, to paraphrase a condensed description of Atlas Shrugged — a novel, it must be recognized, which also depicts a dramatic episode of aviation adventure — this is true, which is cause for all thinkers to want more of what Objectivism explains and offers for living here on earth.

Movie Review: The Founder

An interesting if unsatisfying character drama contains an original if unfulfilled theme in The Founder with Michael Keaton (Birdman) as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

What makes Kroc the founder, a debatable assertion by this account, is the movie’s focus. What leaves the meaning unclear is the way director John Lee Hancock (The Alamo) dodges and hedges. This is utimately why The Founder, which could have been a powerhouse 2016 movie, peters out. Yet what a promising start, with sunny skies and nothing but an ambitiously idealistic adult driven to make money—and a movie about an ‘overnight’ success who’s over the age of 50 (like Col. Sanders or Judi Dench) is long overdue. This is the blank canvas of The Founder, sketching an open market in which demand for fast, simple and delicious food meets the grit of a seasoned salesman from suburban Chicago. The insights in the first two-thirds of the film—about the exhaustive work of thinking about, finding, studying, funding and cultivating a good idea with steely, feisty enthusiasm—are penetrating. The Founder in these stretches is a near-complete depiction of the money-making man in action, from enduring the vacancy and sameness of a carhop joint in Chesterfield, Missouri, to tapping the vitality and excitement of an enterprise out West.

The film’s regionalism and realism are its finest attributes.

Buy the Movie

As with La La Land, Hancock and screenwriter Robert Siegel, powered by Keaton’s performance, let this business-themed movie capture the Southern California (and, broadly, Western) ethos of self-made Americanism matched by Midwestern work ethic. You’ll never think of San Bernardino, a poor area of metropolitan LA recently known for an Islamic terrorist attack by jihadists known to the FBI, the same way again. Depending on which competing version you believe in this back and forth dramatization of a business partnership gone bad, the story of McDonald’s and its rise to fast food success is at once sobering and invigorating. Saddled with a wife (Laura Dern, pointed as always) whose support is tepid, important and strictly secondhand, Keaton’s Kroc contemplates and extrapolates the McDonald brothers’ trial and error tale of tennis court choreography, which took them from New Hampshire through Columbia Pictures, the crash of 1929 and the San Gabriel Valley to a perfect process. The brothers see the San Bernardino hamburger stand as the end of the road.

Through the burgeoning positive thinking self-improvement movement stressing persistence and endless shots of Canadian Club whisky, milkshake machine vendor Kroc sees dollar signs in McDonald’s. Kroc pushes and pushes the homespun brothers McDonald all the way to Des Plaines, Illinois (incidentally, where I first tasted and occasionally ate at Kroc’s first McDonald’s). Kroc investigates, shapes and defines a business partnership they can’t refuse. When the contract goes to signatures, like the hustler in this week’s other take on capitalism, Gold, no one but Kroc thinks the fast food process can be properly balanced and scaled. And it’s important to note that they have legitimate gripes, concerns and grievances. Later, one person does see potential with equal vigor (Linda Cardellini as Joan) but Kroc’s own country club wife in Arlington Heights asks: “When’s enough going to be enough?”

Rather than respond with religious verses, slogans and bromides about charity and humility, Kroc thinks, pauses and replies: “Probably never.” Up go the golden arches and wide go Kroc’s tired, hardworking eyes when he sets his sights upon his sacred temple for the first time, looking upward through a windshield in the movie’s best scene—it is his vision by any honest account of what that means—and, with symbols such as covered wagons and Kroc drawing spiritual strength from Kazan’s On the Waterfront, big business McDonald’s is finally born. How it’s done, how it’s earned, how it’s built on whisky and ruthlessness, from Kroc’s cheerful “Let’s get to work, boys” to inclusive recruitment of blacks, Jews and women, is inspiring. The brothers may denounce what they call Kroc’s “crass commercialism”, and The Founder goes limp on Kroc’s character, portraying him as dishonest in spite of contradictions. Whatever his flaws, if name and title can be earned, and they can, Ray Kroc deserves the movie’s title. To a certain extent, The Founder, thanks to Michael Keaton, driving the movie with a spot-on portrayal of an unpretentiously self-made man, shows the businessman who made McDonald’s. Decide for yourself whether Kroc stole, seized or started this amazing enterprise, which revolutionized the business of food, up from scratch.

Product Review: Verismo V by Starbucks

Competing with Mr. Coffee, Keurig and other home coffee machines, Starbucks launched its Verismo (pronounced vurr-izmo like ‘gizmo’ preceded by the ‘ver’ as ‘vurr’) a few years ago. Read my positive review here. This fall, the food, beverage and lifestyle company, whose innovative CEO Howard Schultz stepped down this week, introduced a new version of the machine.

Verismo V, as the new name goes, is improved.

VerismoV1

Starbucks’ Verismo V

Better yet from the consumer’s perspective, they keep a similar price range ($129-$179), though it’s currently on sale for $99, which comes with a variety pack or your choice of a box of a dozen coffee pods (a limited line compared to Keurig, which also carries Starbucks coffees, including milk-based, espresso and brewed beverages). It’s available with a milk frother, but I already own one of those.

First, the negatives, and there are a couple. The new detachable water tank, unlike the original machine’s tank, drips upon detachment, so, when you refill it with water, expect leakage on the way back to the machine (I haven’t figured out if it’s possible to stop that yet). I’m filling it without removing the container. Also, and it’s not that big of a problem, Verismo V is larger and takes up more space.

Product design enhancements outweigh the negatives, however, and make up for inconvenience. For example, the water tank, previously located in the back of the machine, goes on the side. It’s measurably larger, too, so a couple drinking a cup or two in the morning won’t have to refill the tank as often and can probably go a few days without refilling. It’s more accessible than before, too, with a simple lid, which easily fits into place. The other version’s water container was tucked into the back of the machine, which was a minor hassle.

The cup/drip tray is also removable, only it’s made of sturdier materials—especially the black metal cup holder, which is separable—and now it’s made to magnetically lock into one of two places to accommodate different cup sizes (and it’s easy to detach the parts completely to make room for a travel mug or tall glass). Rather than an indented spot for the cup as in the previous version, the new Verismo coffeemaker curves the opposite way (outwardly, not inwardly), which takes getting used to. The lever feels thicker, there are more buttons allowing more brewing choices—but not too many—on top and Verismo V is observably quieter when brewing coffee. Beverages (you can use the machine as a hot water dispenser for tea and hot chocolate, of course) are as hot as or hotter than before.

Other improvements include the ability to stop any brewing with the touch of any button and an ability—this is new—to program up to four custom dispensing settings, which Verismo V retains, so two people can have their own separate preferences pre-programmed like car seat positions. In the short time I’ve been using Verismo V, a used pod didn’t drop into the detachable container just once, so that’s still a factor, but at least the space for spent pods is larger. There’s still a small discharge of water after the rinse cycle but splatter has been reduced, so the protruding brew spout is more precise.

Verismo V by Starbucks

Verismo V by Starbucks

After set-up, here’s how Verismo works: fill the water container, power up the machine and place a cup on the tray. Wait for go signal (steady not blinking lights), pull the black metal lever down in one swift motion without a pod inserted, run a short rinse, empty the dispensed water and repeat with a cup after inserting a brewed, espresso and/or latte pod this time. Note that, unless you’re using the programmed settings, you’ll have to manually press any button to stop the brewing process or else the brewing does not stop and the cup will overfill. Verismo V still lasts a few minutes. Verismo V is a bit faster and commands are more responsive.

Starbucks offers fewer pod choices than Keurig’s line of K-cups, but limited edition blends, such as Christmas, Anniversary and others, are usually available in Verismo pods through Starbucks’ Target and in-grocery-store operations, online and Starbucks retail stores. Buying at Starbucks’ website in higher volume saves money, as pods come in boxes of 12 at about a dollar a pod (they’re not reusable).

Verismo V is for people who want to drink premium coffee at home without making a mess or spending more time, effort and energy than old-fashioned grinding, pressing and brewing. The coffeemaker comes with a good manual, which features set-up, programming, troubleshooting and cleaning and maintenance instructions, and the machine still automatically powers down after five minutes of idle time. For good, fast, convenient premium coffee at home, Verismo V remains an excellent option.


Go here to learn more about (or register your) Verismo V

Review: Starbucks App (2014)

Product Review: Verismo by Starbucks (2014)

Commentary: Starbucks’ Race Together Campaign

Starbucks Story for a Monday

Social Media and Writing Boot Camp

This week’s job skills workshop, covering writing the perfect resume and cover letter and mastering the job interview, will be held in the auditorium at Burbank Unified’s adult school campus near Bob Hope Airport at 10:00 am this Friday, August 26. I’m excited to teach this new class, which the director asked me to create to help people find rewarding work.

The theme of this 90-minute class is that looking for work in today’s market requires explicit assessment, awareness and positive assertion of one’s record, experience and philosophy of work.

MSOSM BPL anchored 8:22:2016

Social media workshop 8/16 | Burbank Public Library | Photo by Jeffrey Falk

Feedback from Monday’s workshop in social media, which I delivered in downtown Burbank, was constructive. One of my students suggested adding thematic detail to title slides, a good suggestion which I plan to incorporate, and I’m told that the LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter screenshots were helpful. Attendance at the Burbank Public Library-sponsored event exceeded my expectations and audience questions were sharp, serious and insightful.

This area north of Los Angeles is a diverse economic mix of artists, entrepreneurs, professionals and crew that represents the Southern California industrial blend of media, movies, technology, retail and manufacturing. I covered a wide scope of functions and editorial best practices in major social media and I was impressed by how attentive and knowledgeable today’s readers and communicators are about the nuances, details and complications of branding one’s presence on social media.

"Making Sense of Social Media" 8/22/2016 | Burbank Public Library

Social media workshop 8/16 | Burbank Public Library | Photo by Jeffrey Falk

I plan to add aspects of this class to this fall’s 10-week course on social media, which starts on September 12 (follow this fall’s All About Social Media on Facebook here). Space is limited, so if you’re in Southern California, sign up because the course is filling up. The new fall course includes live demonstrations and tutorials in social media. Computer laboratory instruction for each student’s social media profile(s) is an optional part of the fall program this semester, too, so expect to get individual attention with emphasis on how to improve what you’ve made or want to make. Look for updated lessons based on the newest trends, tools and failures, including experience from my projects, campaigns and branding. From Joss Whedon quitting Twitter after negative reviews for Tomorrowland to Brian Williams losing his stature and Robin Williams‘ daughter Zelda Williams reclaiming social media as her own domain, my course covers today’s terrain.

To register for All About Social Media go here.

This course is an editorial orientation. In other words, this is not a course on every detail or feature of Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. My approach instructs the student in how to engage social media based on one’s goals, values and self-interest while exploring certain uses, tools and functions.

WritingBootcamp

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The same premise goes for my fall 2016 Writing Boot Camp, which breaks writing into progressive steps, from before writing begins to after completion of the first draft. Writing Boot Camp includes spot and assigned writing and notes. Course subjects include habits, resources and immersion in writing as an art and as a science.

Selecting the format, designating the topic and formulating a theme are studied and both writing and editing are practiced, both one on one as well as in collaboration with other students in class. Students are asked to read aloud. The 10-week series is based on what I have learned and fundamentally grounded in my professional writing background. I am enthusiastic about Writing Boot Camp. I plan to introduce the course’s first guest speaker, a published author of dozens of books, this coming fall, too.

Register for Writing Boot Camp here and follow the course on Facebook.

Who enrolls in an adult writing course? Poets, screenwriters, published authors and anyone seeking to achieve clarity in writing. Students are entertainment industry executives, songwriters, police officers, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. Certain students attend for general knowledge and practice in a disciplined approach. Others seek to refuel the creative supply through my encouraging immersion in the art and business of storytelling.

Writing Boot Camp starts on September 15. Both courses are held at Burbank Adult School near Bob Hope Airport. However, if you’re unable to attend and you want help, I am available by appointment, video or telephone. Contact me for details.