Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Annie Lou

My sister-in-law, Annie Lou Bayly Berman, passed away on Easter Sunday at the age of 40.  She was one of my favorite people.  But this doesn't make me unique: she was among the most popular and well-loved people I have ever met.  This affection was well-earned -- Annie Lou was, in my experience, unfailingly upbeat, warm, and interesting.  She was a lot of fun.  And she had exceptional friendship skills -- she was generous with both her time and her praise.  She had an ineffable quality -- one felt special to be in her orbit.  I tried to capture a bit of this in the obituary that I put together with her sister Johanna.  Here is an excerpt: 

Anne Louise Bayly Berman, who was known as Annie Lou, passed away on Easter Sunday at her home in upper Northwest Washington.  

Smart, funny, and outgoing, Annie Lou was a connector -- someone who made matches, knitted people together, and created community wherever she went. She did this first and foremost among her immediate family, which included her husband MJ Berman and her beloved children Charles (Charlie), Theodore (Teddy), Louisa (Scottie), and Helene (Nell).  

In the mission statement she created for her family, Annie Lou wrote, "Our family believes in a life of kindness, adventure, humor, beauty, and love, thoughtfully and responsibly lived."

Annie Lou more than lived up to this pledge.  A 3rd generation Washingtonian, she was passionately committed to her city. According to an interview with Washingtonian magazine, Annie Lou felt the most romantic spot in Washington was "the crumpled-down aqueduct near Key Bridge.  It's where I got engaged.  We went on a bike ride, got engaged, went to Cafe Milano and then went swimming.  It was a perfect day for me."

Annie Lou's commitment to Washington was manifest in her professional life as a writer, event planner and tastemaker.  And it was manifest in her charitable work as well. 

Annie Lou was the founding editor of Daily Candy DC.  Her work at Daily Candy involved offering daily recommendations about shopping, food, and culture to thousands of subscribers -- including tips for last-minute Christmas shopping at CVS (a stunt that was covered by USA Today). 

Before joining Daily Candy, Annie Lou was active in the Washington art world.  This included her work at the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, where she was responsible for conducting oral history interviews with a range of important contemporary artists such as Kehinde Wiley and Shepard Fairey.  She was also a significant volunteer contributor in the early years of Artomatic DC, the annual non-profit arts festival. 

In addition to Artomatic, Annie Lou's voluntary efforts included her service as a founding member of BabyLove DC, a non-profit that provides baby gear and supplies to those in need.  She also served on the board of directors of the DC Public Library Foundation and Blue Igloo Playgroup.  She was active in the PTA of Horace Mann Elementary School and was a teacher for Roots of Empathy.

Annie Lou was born on Christmas Day 1975.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that she was born on Christmas and died on Easter.   

She is a real loss for my family -- and for the city of Washington.

Annie Lou was an early adopter of the Internet, creating a variety of web content including videos, blogs, and other written material.  I have assembled a few of Annie Lou's greatest hits here.  Taken together, I think they offer a sense of what was special about her. 

Quick Picks from a Drugstore Santa -- Annie Lou goes shopping with USA Today 

Stop Nader -- Video of Annie Lou as a repentant Nader voter

Favorites -- Washingtonian magazine interview

"Depends on the lighting" -- Fishbowl DC interview

Sweet Smarts -- Baltimore Sun story

Shepard Fairey -- Annie Lou oral history interview

...For Ladies -- Annie Lou's series of instructional videos 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Blueprint for Justice

Today marked a big step forward for former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman's effort to study the feasibility of closing Rikers Island: he announced the two dozen members of his independent commission.  (See here for coverage and the list of members.)

As part of the announcement, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said, "I gave this Commission a difficult but critically important mandate to create a blueprint for justice in New York City...I know the task ahead will not be easy."

I agree with the Speaker -- the obstacles are enormous.  (See this Newsday article for a glimpse of just a few of the challenges.)  One of my very real concerns for the Lippman Commission (its official name is the "Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform") is that it has engendered hopes that will be exceedingly difficult to meet.

The City of New York isn't closing Rikers Island any time soon.  Before the City can even begin to wrestle with the difficult logistical issues (where would you place smaller jail facilities?  how would these be paid for?), there is a need to figure out how to continue to reduce the jail population, which, by the way, is already lower than it has been for more than a generation.

Despite the challenges, we at the Center for Court Innovation have signed on to assist the Lippman Commission in any way the judge sees fit to use us.  In many respects, the Lippman Commission is a logical next step for us.  Many of our operating programs (such as the Midtown Community Court, Bronx Community Solutions, and Red Hook Community Justice Center) have been working to provide alternatives to jail for years.  And we are currently working with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice on a number of new initiatives, including supervised release programs in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx that are attempting to reduce the use of pretrial detention.  (See this piece from Vice.)  Is it possible to crank these kinds of efforts up to a level that would be sufficient to even begin to contemplate closing Rikers?  We look forward to finding out.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cultural Notes

To help chase away the late winter blahs, I have been actively scouting around for little doses of joy.  Here are a few things that fit that description for me:

Lionel Messi -- Anyone who likes sport or, dare I say it, beauty, should be catching every minute of Messi they can while he is still at his peak.  Unfortunately, this week that will mean watching him destroy my beloved Arsenal.

Noises Off -- I have seen this show three times, including a recent trip to the Roundabout's version on Broadway.  I don't think I have ever laughed harder at the theater.  After the laugher fades, you realize what a truly amazing piece of writing this is.

The Feelies -- I've written before about my affection for the Feelies, a band that I think has aged remarkably well.  They marked their 40th anniversary this year by re-issuing their two best albums, complete with new material, including a killer live version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Emma -- At the end of last year, my wife helped to organize an event at the New School to honor the 200th anniversary of Emma.  It was a good fun, but my enjoyment was slightly dampened by the fact that I hadn't read the novel.  I recently rectified that problem and can now say with even greater force that it is worth checking out the panels that the New School put together.

Bruce Springsteen -- I was a huge Springsteen fan in my youth.  When I fell in love with hip-hop in the late '80s, I started to gravitate away from the Boss, but the roots are still there.  The  lavish re-release of The River has been a good excuse for me to listen to Springsteen again.  There are lots of gems in the box set -- and in this free download of a vintage show from that era: Tempe, Arizona 1980.

The Clam -- Eating out is one of my favorite things to do in New York City.  The thing that I have eaten most recently that brought a smile to my face was the lobster roll/fried clam slider at The Clam in the Village.

Stephen Curry -- The conventional wisdom seems to be that there has never been another player in the NBA quite like Steph Curry.  I suppose that this is true, although I agree with Phil Jackson that a case can be made for Chris Jackson/Mahmoud Abdul Rauf (not to mention Steve Nash).  I actually think the best analogy for Curry at the moment is Messi -- another great little man who seems to be operating at a different speed than those around him.  The shot he hit to beat Oklahoma City the other week is worth watching again and again for its sheer audacity and the great call by Mike Breen.  "Bang!" indeed.