Inspire Friday Issue No. 29

The far-reaching impact of Louis Armstrong, hear Amanda Gorman roar, a natural snow globe, top 10 new species, and more…

Reflecting on an American icon. In our recent film America’s Musical Journey, singer/songwriter Aloe Blacc explores the musical heritage of America as he traces the footsteps of the legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong from New Orleans to Chicago and New York City. In this short video, Blacc eloquently describes the impact Armstrong had both in the U.S. and around the world. Watch here.

Reimagining how the world works. Called “spellbinding” by The New York Times, the documentary film The Serengeti Rules tells the stories of five pioneering scientists who set out to answer some simple questions in different corners of the world, only to arrive at the same profound conclusion: that the natural world is regulated by rules, and that predators and keystone species may be our greatest allies in the fight to protect our planet. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and went on to win awards at the 2018 Wildscreen Panda Awards and Jackson Hole Science Media Awards. It is available to stream for free on PBS through January 31 and can also be streamed on Apple TV.

Hear Amanda Gorman roar. We cannot get enough of Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first National Youth Poet Laureate who wowed viewers across the country with her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Google her name and you’ll discover dozens of interviews with the rising star, as well as past performances, including this 10-minute presentation at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences where she discusses her own work. The story of this young poet’s rise to fame and the obstacles she had to overcome, including a speech impediment, are equally fascinating, as seen in this PBS NewsHour story. Her upcoming book, The Hill We Climb and Other Poems will be released in September and can be pre-ordered now.

A natural snow globe. Watch this clip to see a bubble freeze into a beautiful sphere at sunrise on a frozen lake in Minnesota, creating a natural snow globe. What could be more beautiful? Watch here.

Cool new species discovered in 2020. The top 10 species discoveries of 2020 not only look impressive but boast fun and imaginative names, like a snake named Trimeresurus salazar after a famous Harry Potter character, new mushroom species named Cortinarius heatherae after Heathrow Airport where they were found, and a velvet spider in Iran named Loureedia phoenixi in a nod to avant-garde musician Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground and Joaquin Phoenix of Batman fame. Strange and wonderful. Read more.


Every week, MFF president Shaun MacGillivray shares what is inspiring him now, his favorite book recommendations, podcasts, articles, short films, docs, quotes, trends, innovative companies, people, and entrepreneurial stories.

How the brain works. “Thinking Fast and Slow is a profound book with similar insights as are found in Influence by Robert Cialdini. Author Daniel Kahneman is a brilliant physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, and he offers information about how our brains work, and how to think through things in order to make the best choices in business and life. I read it a few years ago and absolutely loved it.” Available here.

Finding light in the darkness. “If you are ever down on your life, unhappy, stuck, or feeling ungrateful, and you know you need a different perspective, then this is the book for you. Viktor Frankel tells his story of living through concentration camps in Germany and how he was able to make it through. He emphasizes that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward. It’s a powerful memoir.” Available here.

And for further inspiring reading recommendations…
Visit Shaun’s “Never Stop Learning” reading list.

Surf stars, film stars. “In 1967, when Jim Freeman and I premiered the first film we worked on together, Free and Easy, it was after spending nine months shooting the film and working every day together to produce a film that was radically different from any other documentary about the sport of surfing. When we were done, the film exceeded our expectations. People in surfing locations all around the world wanted to see it. We scheduled a number of special screenings in nine cities along the East Coast, and as part of our in-person narration of the film each night, we featured four of the stars of the film who were world champion surfers. This was an enormous treat for the surfers in the East where surfing was just getting started. In Asbury Park, New Jersey, we decided to pose under the marquee: Bill Fury, Jim Freeman, Herbie Fletcher, Greg Tucker, Rich Harbour, myself, and Mark Martinson. The crowds for the film were enormous. Each night more than 1,000 people came. The excitement that was generated helped this nascent sport develop.”
—Greg MacGillivray

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