Tag Archives: Bruce Kasanoff

Everyone Into The Pool!

Westporters love their privacy. 

And their pools.

But here, counterintuitively — and from the very exclusive Burritts Landing neighborhood on Long Island Sound, off Saugatuck Avenue — comes this story from Bruce Kasanoff. It originally appeared on the “What Inspires Me” section of LinkedIn:

My neighborhood is a bit odd, in that a few dozen houses share one swimming pool. This is because 50 years ago, one large property was subdivided and the developer left the existing pool intact. He specified that all houses would jointly share in its usage and upkeep.

The 100-year-old pool has two-foot thick walls and is larger than a typical residential pool. It is great for swimming laps. (I say this theoretically, as someone who doesn’t actually swim laps.)

Very few people aspire to share a pool with a few dozen neighbors. Instead, people want their own pool.

After 15 years of sharing, I can tell you that sharing is much, much better. You pay less for upkeep, yet enjoy a bigger pool. But that’s not even close to the best benefit.

Bruce Kasanoff wasn't kidding. That's one giant swimming pool!

Bruce Kasanoff wasn’t kidding. That’s one giant swimming pool! (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

Thanks to the pool, we have an extremely social and friendly neighborhood. Instead of hanging out in our own yards, we hang out together at the pool. We meet each others’ friends and relatives. We share food and sometimes have communal dinners.

Here’s where it gets really interesting, at least to me. Sharing the pool created a culture of sharing in our neighborhood. When my kids were younger, our neighbors approached us with a proposal. Our swing set was getting pretty shaky, and our kids had mostly outgrown it. So our neighbors offered to buy a much nicer new one that we would share, but — because they didn’t have a flat spot in their yard — they asked to put it in ours. We agreed.

Then another neighbor bought a trampoline, that everyone shares. Another bought a soccer net. Same deal. Today, the swing set is long gone but we share a garden with our neighbors.

I’d like to think that this is where we are headed as a society: sharing more.

Increasingly, technology makes this easier. For example, The People Who Share website lists over 8,000 companies and organizations that facilitate sharing. Share a car, house, meal, artistic event, or even a dog.

You don’t need a venture capitalist and a programming team to start sharing. You just need to adopt a sharing mindset. Once you do, don’t be surprised if you discover that sharing is contagious.

(Hat tip: Maxine Bleiweis)

Library’s Latest Shout-Out: Forbes.com

Forbes may be “the capitalist tool.” But it’s got a soft spot for a certain everyone’s-equal space: the Westport Library.

Forbes-logoForbes.com carries a story — “Remarkable Lessons in Innovation From a Public Library” — by Westporter Bruce Kasanoff.

He begins: “There are two ways to run a public library in a small town: the traditional way, or the Maxine Bleiweis way.”

After praising the director for being “a vibrant tool for bringing out the best in others,” he cites her for not knowing the definition of “can’t.” Her library, he says, can be “noisy, boisterous, provocative, outrageous (and) entertaining.”

Kasanoff adds that Bleiweis’ best talent may be bringing out talents in other people. He cites these traits that we all should emulate:

Boldness: If it will benefit the library, Maxine will ask anyone to do anything. She enlists CTOs of Fortune 50 companies, top journalists, famous authors, and a huge corps of enthusiastic volunteers. Just as importantly, she always has a bold idea and a few “asks” ready; if she spots you in the library, the odds are 100 to 1 that she’ll tell you about her latest projects and how you can help.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech writer-video star-guru happily obliges.

Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis has often enlisted the help of David Pogue. The Westport-based tech guru-writer-video star happily obliges.

Warmth: The Westport Library is partially funded by the town, and also depends on donations from its supporters. There’s never enough money, especially now that the library is embarking on a capital campaign to reshape the building to be much more of a gathering, social and performance space. Leaders in such an environment don’t get to bark orders. Maxine leads with warmth, charm and enthusiasm. She understands that her role is to be uplifting and aspirational.

Imagination: What if we turned the middle of the library into a Makerspace? Could we teach kids to program computers by buying two Aldebaran robots for them to program? Maxine discovered the answers to both these questions was “yes.”

The Westport Library's Makerspace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

The Westport Library’s Makerspace has a prominent position in the Great Hall.

Kasanoff concludes:

Maxine taught an entire town not to be limited by outdated conceptions of what you or your organization is supposed to be doing. She showed an entire generation that you are limited only by your own imagination, creativity and willingness to whatever it takes to bring your dream to life.

Most importantly, she showed us what happens when people with diverse talents, abilities and interests work together to uplift a community. The answer, of course, is that magic happens.

Bruce Kasanoff: “Fix This Bridge, Or Connecticut Dies”

Bruce Kasanoff is a Westport-based ghostwriter and former Planning & Zoning  commissioner who works with entrepreneurs. He is also — most importantly for this story — a Metro-North rider.

Well, he rides when the trains are running. Which is not as often as he — or the rest of us — would like.

Yesterday, Forbes.com published his opinion piece: “Fix This Bridge, Or Connecticut Dies.” Bruce began:

Bruce Kasanoff

Bruce Kasanoff

I’m a big fan of bringing out the best in others, but even an optimist like me knows that when people act like they have rocks in their heads, to make progress you might have to bang some heads together.

Commuters who live in Connecticut and work in New York City are all in favor of banging some heads together. Most depend on the Metro-North train system to bring them in and out of the city. Over the past two years, service has gone from pretty good to consistently horrible – and it’s about to get worse.

Bruce described the issues, like fatal accidents that led (via additional safety requirements) to longer train rides and the stuck-twice-in-8-days South Norwalk bridge. He continued:

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy  was outraged by the latest failure, which I know because his office immediately issued a press release that said, “Let me be clear, this is outrageous.”

Dogging It In Cyberspace

It’s a dog’s world.  Even on the internet.

Most Westporters know Bruce Kasanoff as a former Planning and Zoning commissioner with a low tolerance for long meetings.  But he’s calm — and passionate — about dogs.

Which leads us — and, in less than 6 months of existence, 150,000 visitors from over 100 countries — to DrawTheDog.com

The website is a co-production of Bruce and Jim George, an ex-Disney animator who lives in California.  Readers send in stories of “real life dogs and their real life antics.”

Six days a week, Jim draws a cartoon based on 1 of those crazy dog antics.  He includes the dog’s name and town. 

Sometimes this makes readers mad — say it’s a cartoon about a dog digging through garbage, but it’s a different dog than yours.  Bruce and Jim didn’t steal that story.  As they say on their website, lots of dogs dig through garbage.

As can be expected — what with Winslow Park and Compo Beach (November through March only!) — Westport figured prominently in the genesis of the site.  Whenever he dog-romped here, Bruce craved doing something canine-ish.

His profession is marketing strategy, with a sideline in speaking and an expertise in personalization.  “But truth be told,” Bruce says, “I’d rather play with dogs.”

One would think a marketer would be marketing the hell out of DrawTheDog, but one would be wrong.  The site promotes itself.  Bruce did get talked into forming a Facebook group.  A good thing he listened — within a month, it had over 2,300 members.

Major media outlets, including the New York Post, and Dog Fancy and Modern Dog magazines — have mentioned the site.

Bruce is often surprised by which cartoons generate the most comments.  Anything about dogs sleeping in their owners’ beds is huge, because the dogs of half the visitors do exactly that.

Greyhound and Great Dane owners are the most passionate readers, in terms of promoting the site with friends.  Pitbull owners come close, Bruce says, “because they are so grateful for anything that shows the loving side of this misunderstood breed.”

DrawTheDog has featured 1 Westport pooch so far:  Saba, a Vizsla whose owner videotaped her playing with a deer in the back yard.  The Post picked up the story, and interviewed owner Elizabeth Vagnoni.  Who says journalism is a dying craft?

We’re betting Saba is not the last Westport dog that Krasnoff and George highlight.  Between Winslow Park and Compo, we’ve got enough “real life dogs and their real life antics” to last a dog’s age.

Bruce Kasanoff's dog bed.